I have been saying that I think this rally could end sometime next year.

That was before I saw the word of the year: Austerity.

I am wondering if this isn’t the most bizarre contrary and Bullish indicator we have seen:


The word, which seems to have been in every story about the world’s troubled economies this year, became the reference publisher’s most looked-up word thanks to the policies of euro zone countries following the European Union debt crises, which forced many EU member states to drastically cut government programs and social safety nets.

Is that odd, or what?

Category: Contrary Indicators

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

27 Responses to “Merriam-Webster’s most searched word in 2010: Austerity”

  1. JohnnyVee says:

    I am not sure that the internet is a contrary indicator as opposed to TV, radio and print media. Rather, internet chatter may be a prelude or prediction. see, Web Bot Project. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_Bot
    In any event, I can’t wait to find out.

  2. Julia Chestnut says:

    If you are telling me that we’ve become a nation of people who don’t even know the meaning of the word “austerity” — literally — then I’m bristling with a sudden desire to home-school my offspring.

  3. Bootvis says:

    @Julia Chestnut
    I guess a significant part of the hits were generated by non-native speakers. Before the crisis it was seldom used in pop culture, not taught at schools and the etymology is non-obvious. It was one of the few words I had to look up.

  4. VennData says:

    I personally typed it into the popular word search site Merriam-Webster, and would have scribbled some notes in the margin of my Merrian Webster dictionary with my quill pen except a bunch of powder fell from my wig.

  5. brianinla says:

    It’s very bullish for the top 1%, for the divide will be even greater next year.

  6. Raleighwood says:

    I work with plenty of native English speakers who have college degrees that could not use “austerity” in a sentence if you paid them. It must not show up on too many reality shows, ball games or home shopping networks.

    Are we surprised that 25% of kids trying to enlist in the military can’t pass the entrance exam.


  7. Edward says:

    Forget the shock concerning literacy and focus for now on the shock of the economic predicament that (so it seems) compels oodles of people to look up the dreaded word in the dictionary. And, once they have learned the definition of Austerity, do you honestly believe that they then go out and spend and spend to crank up the sickly economy? No? So how can this be a Bullish indicator?

  8. Estragon says:

    In case anyone’s interested, the runners up this year were:

    Past “winners”:
    2009: Admonish
    2008: Bailout
    2007: w00t
    2006: Truthiness
    2005: Integrity
    2004: Blog
    2003: Democracy

    Seriously? We had to look up the word “bailout” in 2008?

  9. JimRino says:

    What “Austerity” does point to is export of Stupid Economics ( http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine ) as espoused by a set of Rich Crackpot’s, the Bilderberg group?, attempting to Destroy Europe’s Successful Social ( Risk Management ) programs for the bottom 99%, so they can justify further wealth transfer from poor to rich, in America.

    With Europe looking like a literal Heaven On Earth, compared to the American Work Camps, with Europe running Successful Capitalistic Systems without Worker Proverty, this Successful Example cannot be allowed to stand out, to entice the American Public to demand better conditions, and a better life for their offspring.

  10. ancientone says:

    Austerity being the opposite of stimulus bodes ill for the economy of any country that decides now is the time for it. Just when I thought the Republican economic idiots were going to curse us with some of it, (remember how they were going to slash the deficit?) they go and pass another mediocre stimulus bill to keep us limping along. Go figure.

  11. Captain Jack says:

    Hold on a sec. Why would this be a bullish indicator?

    Isn’t “austerity” actually a pejorative term these days?

    As in Paul Krugman style warnings, “Austerity is the road to repeating the Great Depression,” or the growing chorus “Austerity will be the death of Europe” etcetera.

    When political leaders cut spending and take harsh measures, they use positive phrases like sobriety and fiscal prudence.

    So it would seem logical — help me see how this is backwards — that a high frequency of “austerity” searches is actually more a win for the Krugmanesque camp… austerity being culturally appropriated as bad policy and an economic dirty word.

  12. beaufou says:

    At last, the peasants understand the message and are preparing themselves for a new dawn of idiotic kleptocracy.

  13. JimRino says:

    The “Republicans” did do it, to the states.
    It was there best effort to keep a recovery from happening, before the elections, so that they could transfer blame for Catastrophic Failure of Rampant Wall Street Fraud to the Democrats.

    Why is it “Republicans” are always saying America is “Number One”, and then Lay Off Teachers?

    If you really believed in Capitalism and the Free-Market, you’d Double Teacher Salary( to attract the Best Teachers ), while Doubling Teacher Count, and make American Elementary and Secondary Schools the Best in the World.

  14. JimRino says:

    Is the answer that the right wing is controlled by, hmmm, Barry will delete this entry if I’m too descriptive, millionaires with low IQ scores? So, giving the public a good education puts these people at risk of More Competition in the Marketplace? Is the a form of Monopoly Control?

  15. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Austerity and booming markets are perfect conditions for Black Swan roosting areas. The Black Swan of social backlash will land on us and wipe the freekin’ big board clean.

  16. constantnormal says:

    @ancientone — that “mediocre” stimulus bill ain’t so mediocre when you look at it from the vantage point of the top 1% … it’s only the lower 99% that won’t be seeing much stimulus …


    And check out the “ONE MILLIONAIRE’S TAX BILL” item in the following link …


    … when you make most of your income from capital movements, our tax code has been structured to permit one to escape nearly all taxation … not losing the Bush no-tax gravy train is a tremendous stimulus to the only people who matter in D.C. … there will be some fantastic partying come New Year’s Eve …

  17. Bill in SF says:

    What about the words people searched for but couldn’t find:

    Refudiate has been named the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2010 Word of the Year!


    Other finalists included bankster, double-dip, retweet, and top kill.

  18. “…then I’m bristling with a sudden desire to home-school my offspring…”


    by now, one might have thought that that desire would have, surely, been stoked..

    if in need of more..see http://deliberatedumbingdown.com/

  19. Ltdata says:

    Austerity – an opportunity for change, hopefully not to be wasted. More things become negotiable (public pensions in NJ, benefits, fed payroll tax, etc.) And of course there are people that believe a government’s budget should always be austere.

    To Cap’n (Captain Jack): I’ll agree, austerity as pejorative.

    And anyone who doesn’t know bailout probably didn’t have a boat. It doesn’t have to be big – kayaks are neat, not noisy, and good for exercise, too. (BR: You missed power boats in your holiday gifts, by the way).

  20. jaymaster says:

    I bet many of them were just trying to figure out how to spell it.

    Its proper spelling looks odd.

  21. I have been saying that I think this rally could end sometime next year.

    Might that be when QEII ends? ;-)

  22. Jack says:

    @Estragon: woot? woot?

  23. derekce says:

    Every industry has had to layoff people due to economic distress. How would making teachers immune to this economic reality be free market?

  24. JimRino says:

    One sector that did not get laid off were students.

  25. derekce says:

    So how are the students paying?

  26. ancientone says:

    @constantnormal–you’re right, how silly of me. I was thinking about the whole economy, not just the favored few who control government.