Politicians Take Note: 'Pragmatic' Was 2011's Word Of The Year

Dec 15, 2011
Originally published on December 15, 2011 10:02 am

Americans put members of Congress at the very bottom of those they consider to be honest and ethical. They tell pollsters that they want politicians in Washington to "compromise in order to get things done."

And now we hear that Merriam-Webster has chosen "pragmatic" as its top word of 2011.

The connection between those things: Online searches for the word spiked in August as Republicans and Democrats were arguing over the federal debt ceiling and a possible government shutdown loomed. Searches for "pragmatic" increased again this fall, The Associated Press reports, as the so-called supercommittee failed to agree on a way to reduce the federal deficit.

The wire service adds that:

" 'Pragmatic' may have sparked dictionary users' interest both because they'd heard it in conversations, and because it captures the current American mood of encouraging practicality over frivolity, said John Morse, president and publisher of Springfield, Mass.-based Merriam-Webster. 'Pragmatic is a word that describes a kind of quality that people value in themselves but also look for in others, and look for in policymakers and the activities of people around them,' Morse said."

The rest of Merriam-Webster's Top Ten List for 2011:

2. ambivalence.

3. insidious.

4. didactic.

5. austerity.

6. diversity.

7. capitalism.

8. socialism.

9. vitriol.

10. après moi le déluge ("After me, the deluge," which spiked when pundit David Gergen used it in an essay titled "Have they gone nuts in Washington?" It's a quote attributed to Louis XV of France when he predicted the French revolution.)

Past words of the year, according to Merriam-Webster:

2010 — austerity.

2009 — admonish.

2008 — bailout.

2007 — wOOt. ("Expressing joy." It's an acronym that comes from online gaming and refers to "we owned the other team.")

2006 — truthiness. (Famously coined by Stephen Colbert.)

2005. — integrity.

2004 — blog.

2003 — democracy.

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