A mysterious New York Times op-ed writer. A beloved TV-show star. A struggle to log into email. What do they all have in common? Spots on the Dictionary.com Trending Words of the Week for August 31–September 7, 2018!
Lodestar, amorality, and deep state
The identity of a mysterious New York Times op-ed writer has yet to be revealed, but it isn’t for lack of examining the words used by an alleged senior White House staffer. In particular, searches for the meaning of lodestar, amorality, and deep state were on the rise on Dictionary.com—the first up more than 3,000%—as amateur sleuths tried to use word clues to suss out the identity of the writer.Lodestar refers to “a star that shows the way,” while amorality is “a lack of moral quality.” Deep state, which climbed 117%, refers to “a group that supposedly controls state policy behind the scenes, while the democratically-elected process and elected officials are merely figureheads.”
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) September 6, 2018
John Krasinski’s new show Jack Ryan hit Amazon Prime just in time for some serious Labor Day bingeing … and Beltway disbelief over his D.C. commute. But, it was the actor’s appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert that landed him on the Dictionary.com Trending Words list. Doughy made its first appearance after Krasinski said wife Emily Blunt isn’t crazy about his new TV-ready bod. “She hates it. She would way prefer to have doughy guy back,” Krasinski said. Doughy means “of or like dough, especially in being soft and heavy or pallid and flabby.” Sounds like just the kind of guy we’d like to cuddle with!
WATCH: Harry Potter Redefines Identity
It can hardly be coincidence that JK Rowling celebrated the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter’s publication in the United States just as searches for the word divination took a 339% climb. Divination is not one of Rowling’s famous made-up words! It dates back to the days of Middle English and means “the practice of attempting to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge by occult or supernatural means.” Potter fans know Sybill Trelawney served as Divination professor at Hogwarts, but we were glad to step in to fill other folks in this week.
Harry Potter was first published in the US 20 years ago today, so
I’m sending lots of love to American Potterheads, who’ve given me some of the most memorable moments of my Potter-related life!@Scholastic #HarryPotter20 🇺🇸 ⚡️❤️
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) September 5, 2018
Thousands of Americans were thwarted by a one-word message when they tried to log into certain Microsoft products this week, sending them scurrying for answers. As users shared on Twitter, when they attempted to access their office software, they saw only a screen with the world throttled, sending searches for the term sky high. Often associated with Net Neutrality, the word throttled refers to “an obstructed flow, be it of fluid or information.”
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) September 5, 2018
The Circle Game
It was one hand sitting on an arm, but Republican operative Zina Bash’s spot right behind Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate hearing this week ensured that her hand was seen by a whole lot of eyes around the world.
The position—thumb and forefinger forming a circle, the rest of her fingers stretched out—sparked a fiery debate over whether Bash was displaying a white supremacist symbol. It likewise sent searches for The Circle Game climbing 180% on Dictionary.com. What does one have to do with the other? When playing the circle game, people (typically teenagers) form that same thumb and forefinger circle, the other finger stretched out. Held below the waist, the “trick” is to make people look at the circle, at which point the unwitting looker gets punched. When held higher, the symbol is typically used to signify the phrase OK, but a recent hoax linked it with white supremacy.
Find out the last time The Circle Game trended on Dictionary.com.
Despite outcry from human rights groups, a Malaysian court handed down a draconian punishment this week for two women accused of sharing a sexual relationship: caning. The practice of flogging with a cane, caned jumped into Dictionary.com’s trending searches for the first time as a result.