Behind The Scenes at Merriam Webster

Fantastic piece by Jen Doll, about how Merriam Webster gives is alive and well, and providing a window into our culture:

So, what are people thinking? Affect and effect are among the most looked-up words on any given day; other frequently searched terms include paradigm, ubiquitous, integrity, conundrum, and pragmatic. "Most of them have classical roots and slightly abstract meanings; they send people to the dictionary," he says. But you can break it down even further: People go to the dictionary for a few different reasons: for usage (as with affect and effect), for spelling (a word like fiancé), or for comprehension or definitions (with love, another frequently looked-up word, "they're not going for the spelling," says Sokolowski). Sometimes it's easy to connect a word spike to a news story, like in the case of Boson, but often it's more abstract, he says, referencing democracy and socialism. In those cases, "it's just about the zeitgeist."

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