'Blog' tops words of the year
A four-letter term that came to symbolize the difference between old and new media during this year's presidential campaign tops U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster's list of the 10 words of the year.
Merriam-Webster Inc. said Tuesday that blog, defined as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks," was one of the most looked-up words on its Internet sites this year.
Eight entries on the publisher's top-10 list related to major news events, from the presidential election -- represented by words such as incumbent and partisan -- to natural phenomena such as hurricane and cicada.
Springfield, Massachusetts-based Merriam-Webster compiles the list each year by taking the most researched words on its Web sites and then excluding perennials such as affect/effect and profanity.
The company said most online dictionary queries were for uncommon terms, but people also turned to its Web sites for words in news headlines.
"That is what occurred in this year's election cycle ... with voluminous hits for words like 'incumbent,' 'electoral,' 'partisan,' and, of course, our number one Word of the Year, 'blog,'" Merriam-Webster President and Publisher John Morse said in a statement.
Americans called up blogs in droves for information and laughs ahead of the Nov. 2 presidential election.
Freed from the constraints that govern traditional print and broadcast news organizations, blogs spread gossip while also serving as an outlet for people increasingly disenchanted with mainstream media.
It was mainly on blogs that readers first encountered speculation that President Bush wore a listening device during his first debate against Democrat John Kerry. The White House, forced to respond, called it a laughable, left-wing conspiracy theory.
Bloggers also were among the first to cast doubt on a CBS television news report that challenged Bush's military service.
CBS later admitted it had been duped into using questionable documents for the report. Last week CBS anchor Dan Rather said he would step down in March, although the network said the move was unconnected to the scandal.
A Merriam-Webster spokesman said it was not possible to say how many times blog had been looked up on its Web sites but that from July onward, the word received tens of thousands of hits per month.
Blog will be a new entry in the 2005 version of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. The complete list of words of the year is available at http://www.merriam-webster.com/info/04words.htm.