Scientifically speaking, 2016 has been a trash fire inside a dumpster fire of a limp-wristed excuse for a year. But we’ve still got another month to go. You could take this opportunity to prepare for the unexpected ice age that will probably strike with no warning over Christmas; or, as some upbeat internet users are doing, you could work your ass off to make “puppies” the word of the year, and give historians one happy footnote in the chapter of badness.
Every year, Merriam-Webster uses data on the most-looked-up words to declare a “Word of the Year.” According to a tweet the dictionary sent out in late November, “fascism” is or was in the running to be the word of the year.
'Fascism' is still our #1 lookup.
# of lookups = how we choose our Word of the Year.
There's still time to look something else up.
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 29, 2016
I will leave you to your own conclusions about why that’s been happening.
Internet users, rightfully horrified by the idea of another thing reminding them that 2016 has sucked, rushed to try and make “puppies” the word of the year instead by frantically searching it. This was helped by the efforts of influential Twitter accounts, and it seems like the spike in virtual puppies was enough for Merriam-Webster to comment on:
@samanthavicent I've searched "puppies" 523 times in the past 30 minutes. Anything change?
— Carter 🐯 (@CarterthePower) November 29, 2016
Unfortunately, as the dictionary has now explained in a blog post, it basically lied in an earlier tweet. A simple volume increase in lookups won’t slingshot a word into the number one spot, and apparently, the system “can’t be rigged”:
“Our Word of the Year cannot be rigged. We encourage people to look up new words at all times, particularly if those words are strange 19th-century Americanisms or words for adorable doll-like creatures, but our Word of the Year is based on year-over-year increase in lookups. We look for a word which got a high number of lookups and increased dramatically in popularity when compared to previous years.
For example, love always gets a high amount of lookups; it’s unlikely to be Word of the Year, because it doesn’t tell us anything new about this year in comparison to other years. People are always interested in love.
Fascism is both a perennial top lookup—it’s #4 on our all-time lookup list and was in the top 12 words last year—and a word that has shown a recent spike. It was the top word for November, and had a particular spike on November 9. It’s currently in the top 1% of lookups.”
On behalf of the internet, I have one phrase for Merriam-Webster: challenge accepted.