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Words and More Words of the Year

Every year more and more companies and websites get into the Word of the Year game. It all began with the Word of the Year published by the American Dialect Society since 1991. Its list includes “The Most Unnecessary”, “The Most Likely to Succeed”, “The Most Outrageous”, “The Most Original”, “The Most Euphemistic”, among others. It’s 2005 Word of the Year was truthiness. The wizened heads there are still mulling over this year’s choice.

In 2000, my partner at, Paul Payack, came up with the idea of having the Top 10 Words of the year. So he and I, along with his brother, Peter, came up with our first list, which CNN liked very much click here to see how much. Click here to see the rest of the series.

In 2003 Merriam-Webster decided to join the fray. They allow visitors to their website to choose the word and this year they repeated the 2005 ADS word, truthiness, which carried the balloting by a 5-1 margin, no doubt as a result of Colbert fans stuffing the ballot box.

I have continued the yourDictionary tradition at alphaDictionary, looking for the most newsworthy words, asking visitors and office personnel to help but making the decision here in the office based on web search counts and intuition.

Merriam-Webster is the biggest dictionary publisher out there and it gets a lot of exposure for its top word, no matter how they choose it or how unoriginal it is. However, as more and more web surfers are disappointed by it, we will probably see more and more top words, top 10 words—top 50 words.

The problem is that so many new words emerge now given almost universal access to publishing; the range of choices for the annual word is expanding faster than the top wordistas can chase them down. So the lists will continue but we seem to be heading for enough confusion to make them all irrelevant in just a few years.

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