Zelig And Other Trending Words This Week

For the second time in as many months, former CIA Director John Brennan has thrown searches on Dictionary.com into a tailspin. Last month, Brennan’s retort to President Donald Trump drove people in droves to find out the meaning of the words turpitude, venality, and demagogue. So what word did Brennan use this time (in yet another response to the president)?

Kakistocracy 

Meaning “a form of government in which the worst persons are in power,” kakistocracy took the biggest leap in searches this week at 2497%. It’s not the first time the word has spiked on the site, and based on repeated traffic throughout the week, we have a feeling it won’t be the last either.

Zelig 

It was an interview heard around the world, and the James Comey sit-down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos drove folks to search Dictionary.com too. The biggest word of the night came not from Comey, however, but Stephanopoulos, who referred to the former FBI director as “the Zelig of modern law enforcement,” sending searches for Zelig up 1050%. So who—or what—is a Zelig? The term comes from the name Leonard Zelig, the main character in Zelig, a 1984 film by W. Allen. These days, Zelig means “a chameleonlike person who is unusually ubiquitous.”

Lawyer

Another 1050% spike came from searchers on the hunt for the meaning of the word lawyer. Although the word is fairly common, its meaning was fiercely contested this week with a revelation that Fox News pundit Sean Hannity was also a client of President Donald Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen. Hannity has called his relationship with Cohen “minor,” and says he did not pay the lawyer any legal fees, although he did ask him legal questions.

Pontificate

Pope Francis drew a lot of attention this week, and sent a lot of people searching for the meaning for a noun and verb usually associated with the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Searches for pontificate were up 639% this week. The word means “to perform the office or duties of a pontiff.” It can also mean “to speak in a pompous or dogmatic manner.” Pontiff, by the way, means “high chief or priest.” Pope Francis’ busy week included a spot in a viral video featuring a sad little boy who asked the pontiff if his atheist dad is in heaven. Pope Francis’ kind answer was anything but pontificating.

National Send a Nude Day

It’s about as far from the pontiff as you can get, and yet National Send a Nude Day lands on our trending word list with a whopping 12,468% spike in searches. The fictional holiday has been used on and off—on a variety of dates—in an attempt to spur people to, well … send nude photos. We can’t say whether or not there was a flurry of pictures passed around this week in conjunction with the word spike. We’re simply relieved we were spared a look-see.

Procrastinate

If you were trying to find anything to do other than your taxes this week, welcome to the club. Searches for the word procrastinate climbed 167% this week. The word means “delay,” and we can’t think of any better way to delay completing tax forms than learning a few new words.

BTFO

Hockey fans couldn’t stop talking about the Ducks’ 8–1 loss to the San Jose Sharks this week in game 3 of playoffs. But, the 276% spike in searches for the acronym BTFO makes us wonder if more than a few fans decided to make their sports talk more office-friendly. After all, BTFO is a vulgar internet acronym for “blown the f*ck out.” It’s used to emphasize an extraordinary or embarrassing defeat, especially in a sports or a political argument.

Commencement

The loss of former First Lady Barbara Bush was felt across the country this week, and as we revisited the Bush matriarch’s many public moments, a commencement speech she gave at Wellesley College in 1990 helped make sad Americans laugh again. Some students had decried the selection of the first lady as their graduation speaker, but Bush won their hearts with her wishes to a future presidential spouse that may be in the audience. “I wish him well,” she said to great applause. It seems only fitting that the word commencement saw a 206% spike this week. After all, the word means both the beginning and the ending ceremonies at which a school grants diplomas.

Peniaphobia

The word may make you giggle, but peniaphobia has nothing to do with the male anatomy and everything to do with a fear of poverty. That’s what people driving the 235% spike in searches learned this week. So, why were they looking? The thanks (or the blame, depending on how you look at it) goes to a horse named Peniaphobia, who has been tearing up South Korean racetracks and keeping peniaphobia at bay for his owners.

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