Pope on lips of the world as Top Words and Phrases of 2013 revealed

The Pope, 404, Fail, hashtag, optic, surveillance.

What might seem like a strange and unrelated mash-up of words is actually a list of the world’s most popular words in 2013, according to The Global Language Monitor.

According to the survey released this week, Pope Francis is on everybody’s lips, listed as Number 4 in the world’s top words, and Number 1 in the world’s top names. The Pope appears in a list of what would otherwise be a rather depressing list of words, including ‘fail’, ‘deadlock’, ‘deficit’ and ‘stalemate’.

POPEIt’s the first time since 2005 that a religious figure of any sort has appeared in the top 5 words/phrases/names list. In 2005, ‘God’ was listed as the most popular name, with the prefix ‘acts of’ attached to it, as the world watched the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the October 8 earthquake in South Asia (killing 87,000), the Iraq War, and terrorist bombings in London, Bali and New Delhi.

There are 1,025,109.8 words that make up the English language (as projected as to 1 Jan 2014) and technology organisation The Global Language Monitor has analysed the usage of all of them to come up with the top words used by the world’s 1.83 billion English-speaking people in 2013.

Here’s the top 10 words of 2013 given by the organisation (for full top 20 list, click here):

  1. 404 – “the near-universal numeric code for failure on the global internet”.
  2. Fail – “The single word fail, often used as a complete sentence (Fail!) to signify failure of an effort, project, or endeavor.”
  3. Hashtag – “The ‘number sign’ and ‘pound sign’ reborn as the all-powerful Twitter hashtag
  4. @Pontifex – “The Hashage [Twitter name] of the ever-more popular Pope Francis”
  5. The Optic – “The ‘optic’ is threatening to overtake ‘the narrative’ as the Narrative overtook rational discourse. Does not bode well for an informed political discussion.”
  6. Surveillance – “The revelation of the unprecedented extent of spying by the NSA into lives or ordinary citizens to eh leaders of the closest allies of the US.”
  7. Drones – “Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that are piloted remotely or by on-board computers used for killing scores r even hundreds of those considered enemy combatants of the US.”
  8. Deficit – “Looks like deficit-spending will plague Western democracies for at least the next decade. Note to economists of all stripes: reducing the rate of increase of deficit spending still increases the deficit.”
  9. Sequestration – “Middle English sequestren, from Old French, from Latin sequestrare, meaning to hide away or isolate or to give up for safekeeping.”
  10. Emancipate – “Grows in importance as worldwide more wome and children are enslaved in various forms of involuntary servitude.

Also in the list of the top 20 most used words of 2013, some almost ashamedly so, are ‘Twerking’, described as “a dance mimicking various sexual postures and acts made famous by Miley Cyrus”, and ‘meme’, “internet memes can best be conceived as Internet thoughts or ideas that are propagated through all varieties of electronic communications”.

To qualify for the lists, which include ‘Top Words’, ‘Top Phrases’ and ‘Top Names’, the words, names and phrases must be found globally, have a minimum of 25,000 citations and the requisite ‘depth’ (media usage) and ‘breadth’ (appearing the world over/not limited to particular profession, social group or geography) of usage.

Also analysed were Top Phrases, which, while most likely influenced more by American politics, seem surprisingly relevant to Australia this week also. The top four phrases including ‘Toxic politics’, ‘Federal Shutdown’, ‘Global warming/Climate Change’ and ‘Federal Deficit’.