Word Trends: Cattywampus, Tantrum, Booty

Some words, such as affect, metaphor, and irony, hold relatively steady in lookups at Dictionary.com regardless of what’s happening in pop culture, politics, or social media. Other words shift wildly in rank and volume, often as a ripple effect of a news item or event that has piqued people’s curiosity—we call those trending words. Here are few of our favorite trending words from the week of March 19–25.

Thursday, March 19
booty

Last Thursday, we saw a sizable bump (so to speak) in lookups for the word booty. The timing leads us to suspect that this may have something to do with Anna Kendrick’s crowd-pleasing performance of the J. Lo song “Booty,” which is featured in a trailer that went viral last week for an upcoming TV show called Lip Sync Battle. Also in booty news, the DJ, music producer, and rapper Diplo, who last November made the poorly received joke that “Someone should make a Kickstarter to get Taylor Swift a booty,” admitted to GQ Style that messing with Swift and her army of fans was “one of the biggest mistakes” of his career. The Daily Mail released an advance peek of this article on March 18.

Friday, March 20
vernal
haughtiness
unguis

The first day of spring (March 20) was marked by increased lookups for words related to the season: vernal, vernal equinox, and spring equinox were all trending. On a less flowery note, haughtiness saw a spike in lookups. This word means “disdainfully proud; snobbish; scornfully arrogant; supercilious.” The term was associated with Hillary Clinton in an Op-Ed by the Washington Times on March 19. The biggest (and most confounding) trend of Friday was in lookups for the word unguis. This word means “a nail, claw, or hoof.” Your guess is as good as ours.

Saturday, March 21
cattywampus/catawampus
hawkeye

In an NCAA press conference on Saturday, Nigel Hayes, a forward for the University of Wisconsin Badgers, rattled off a handful of obscure words in an effort to rile the stenographer: “I’d like to say a few words: cattywampus, onomatopoeia, and antidisestablishmentarianism,” said Hayes. That day, both cattywampus and its variant catawampus spiked in our lookups. Cattywampus means “askew; awry” or, as an adverb, “diagonally; obliquely.” We wonder if March Madness had anything to do with another trend that day: hawkeye. We define this term as “a native or inhabitant of Iowa,” but it is also the name of the University of Iowa’s basketball teams.

Sunday, March 22
tantrum

On Sunday, in the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection as Israel’s prime minister, Senator John McCain delivered a pointed message to President Obama on CNN’s State of the Union: “Get over your temper tantrum, Mr. President.” That day, lookups for tantrum spiked on Dictionary.com. A tantrum is defined as a sudden burst of ill temper.

Tuesday, March 24
obliterated

Obliterated saw a spike on Tuesday, perhaps as a result of the steady stream of descriptions of the wreckage of the Germanwings plane crash, which happened that morning in the French Alps. The plane was found in pieces and no passengers survived. Obliterated means “completely destroyed.” It comes from the Latin term oblitterāre, which means “efface, cause to be forgotten.”

Wednesday, March 25
desertion

On Wednesday, we saw a wave of interest in the term desertion. On this day, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl was held hostage by affiliates of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2009, and was released in a controversial deal authorized by President Obama last year in exchange for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

Did you look up any of these terms? Do you have any theories as to why these terms were trending? Let us know in the comments!

Read last week’s installment to find out why people were looking up triskaidekaphobia, ides, and scion.