Laurel And Other Trending Words On

From LeBron James’ performance in the Eastern Conference finals to some reality stars on MTV, here’s a look at the vocabulary lessons we got from the news the week of May 11–18, 2018.


No athlete wants to send people to the dictionary to find out that BTFO means “blown the f–k out,” least of all find out that searches for the acronym climbed 2455% after your loss. But, if any athlete can take that kind of hit, it’s likely “King” Lebron James, who was held to just 15 points in game one of the Eastern Conference finals this week. The Boston Celtics won the game 108–83, blowing out the Cleveland Cavaliers.


Mother Nature—and The Weather Channel—threw searches into high gear for derecho when “widespread and severe windstorms” moved into the Eastern US this week. Defined as windstorms that move rapidly along a fairly straight path and are associated with bands of rapidly moving thunderstorms, derecho saw a 4228% boost this week. Sure, you could just call them thunderstorms or windstorms, but you wouldn’t learn a new word, would you? Derecho comes from the Spanish word for direct or straight. Tornado, on the other hand, comes from a Spanish word for thunderstorm.


The linguistic version of the blue and black dress had friends and family at loggerheads this week over a clip of one word being said over and over and over again. Which word? Well, that all depends on just how you heard it. Some folks said yanny. Others said laurel. Meanwhile searches for the proper pronunciation (and meaning) of laurel climbed 600% this week.


Although it originally appeared in the Washington Post on May 11, syndication of George Will’s opinion column “If Iran wants nuclear weapons, it will get them,” to other publications across the globe lead to a 600% spike in searches for autarky this week. Meaning “the condition of self-sufficiency, especially economic, as applied to a nation,” the word autarky was used by Will in reference to Iran’s leaders. “The nation is more porous to outside influences than can suit the regime, which has a despotism’s normal preference for intellectual autarky,” Will said.

Last week, it was Will who sent searches sky high for both toadyism and oleaginous.


Senator John McCain’s announcement that he would not support the nomination of Gina Haspel to head up the CIA was said by the Washington Post‘s Mike DeBonis to roil Washington. But, it was DeBonis’ word choice (or that of the headline writer, anyway) that had an effect on queries. Searches for roils, which means “disturbs or disquiets; irritates; vexes,” were up 108%.


It’s hard to pin down just what caused an 862% leap in searches for boujee this week.  Hip-hop slang for something “luxurious in lifestyle yet humble in character,” boujee owes its popularity in large part to the 2016 hit “Bad and Boujee” by rap trio Migos. Featured on the song was Lil Uzi Vert, a hip-hop star who rarely speaks to media but was profiled in GQ earlier in the week.

A word battle between Teen Mom 2 stars Briana DeJesus and Kailyn Lowry is another possible culprit. The reality stars exchanged heated words over the possibility that DeJesus is dating Lowry’s ex-husband, with Lowry calling DeJesus ratchet, and DeJesus describing herself as boujee.


A series of tweets from President Donald Trump was tied to the 213% spike in searches for imbedded this week. The president first accused the FBI of placing an “imbedded informant” in his campaign, then tweeted his entire statement again, this time with “imbedded” changed to “embedded.” He (or someone on his staff) eventually deleted the first tweet with “imbedded.” Just why the change was made is unknown. Imbedded is simply a different (but acceptable) spelling of embedded, both of which mean “incorporated or contained as an essential part or characteristic.”


Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway scored a trending word this week when she accused White House leakers of using the media to “shiv each other.” Searches for shiv climbed 155%. Slang for a knife, especially a switchblade, shiv can also be a verb that refers to the use of a shiv.

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