Top word of 2013: 404 (That’s bad, right?)

Top word of 2013: 404

Get on the 404 train, failures! Photo: vxla, Creative Commons

Every year the Global Language Monitor releases its “top words,” indicating which words represent our changing English language and world cultures. I have a little tradition of writing a column at the end of the year about the Global Language Monitor list, which I look forward to doing again next month. Past columns, replete with topical snark, include 2012, 2011, 2010 … really, quite a ways back as I started before I even had a blog.

Last year I was finally noticed by the good people (person? robot? There’s a guy named Paul for sure) at GLM and this year they sent me an advance copy of their “Top Word of 2013” press release.

So, I’ll be writing another column for the dead zone in between Christmas and New Years (the real reason I started doing this in the first place) but, for my loyal blog readers, a peek at the raw ore from which I construct my sturdy lingual workings. Behold, the top word of 2013, and its worthy associates:

Top Words of 2013: 404 is the Top Word, Toxic Politics the Top Phrase & Pope Francis the Top Name in 14th Annual Analysis of Global English

Global Language Monitor’s 14th Annual Survey of Global English

Number of Words in the English Language: 1,025,109.8 (projected January 1, 2014 estimate)

AUSTIN, Texas November 5, 2013 — The Global Language Monitor has announced that ‘404’ is the Top Word, ‘Toxic Politics’ the Top Phrase and ‘Pope Francis’ the Top Name of 2013 in its 14th annual global survey of the English language.

404 was followed by fail, hashtag, @pontifex, and Optic. Rounding out the top ten were surveillance, drones, deficit, sequestration, and emancipate.

404 is the near-universal numeric code for failure on the global Internet, augmenting its original use as ‘page not found’. The single word fail is often used together with 404 to signify complete failure of an effort, project, or endeavor.

“404 has gained enormous attention the world over this year as systems in place since World War II, which many see as the beginning of the contemporary era, are in distress or even failure.” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor. “The recent ObamaCare launch debacle in the US is only a representative example of a much wider system fail, from the political deadlock in the US Government, to the decline of the dollar, to the global web of intrigue and surveillance by the NSA, to the uncertainty regarding the European Union, and the on-going integration of China and other rising powers, such as India and Brazil into the global economic system.”

You can read more at Global Language Monitor. Every year I’ve done this the list has gotten more and more glum. I enjoy this greatly.

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