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Ivanka, Jeff Flake Uttered Dictionary.com's Word of Year

So did Scarlett Johansson
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 27, 2017 11:50 AM CST
Ivanka, Jeff Flake Uttered Dictionary.com's Word of Year
This undated screenshot provided by Dictionary.com shows the word "complicit" on the Dictionary.com website.   (Dictionary.com via AP)

(Newser) – Russian election influence, the ever-widening sexual harassment scandal, mass shootings, and the opioid epidemic helped elevate the word "complicit" as Dictionary.com's word of the year for 2017. Look-ups of the word increased nearly 300% over last year as "complicit" hit just about every hot button, from politics to natural disasters, lexicographer Jane Solomon tells the AP: "This year a conversation that keeps on surfacing is what exactly it means to be complicit. Complicit has sprung up in conversations about those who speak out against powerful figures in institutions, and those who stay silent." While Solomon shared percentage increases for "complicit," the company wouldn't disclose the number of look-ups, calling that data proprietary. There were three major spikes for the word:

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  • The first struck March 12. That was the day after Saturday Night Live aired a sketch starring Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump in a glittery gold dress peddling a fragrance called "Complicit" because: "She's beautiful, she's powerful, she's complicit."
  • The bump was followed by another on April 5, also related to Ivanka, Solomon says. It was the day after she appeared on CBS This Morning and told Gayle King, among other things: "I don't know what it means to be complicit."
  • The third major spike occurred Oct. 24, the day Arizona Republican Jeff Flake announced from the Senate floor that he would not seek re-election, harshly criticizing President Trump and urging other members of the party not to stand silently with the president. "I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit," Flake said.

The site chooses its word of the year by heading straight for data first, scouring look-ups by day, month, and year to date and how they correspond to noteworthy events. Among the other words that resonated:

  • Intersex: It trended on Dictionary.com in January thanks to model Hanne Gaby Odiele speaking up about being intersex to break taboos. As a noun it means "an individual having reproductive organs or external sexual characteristics of both male and female." Dictionary.com traces its origins back to 1915, as the back formation of "intersexual."
  • Shrinkage: While the word has been around since 1790, a specific definition tied to a famous 1994 episode of Seinfeld led to a word look-up revival in February. That's when a house in the Hamptons where the episode was filmed went on the market. For the record: The Jason Alexander character George Costanza emerges with "shrinkage" from a pool and said "shrinkage" is noted by Jerry's girlfriend.
  • Tarnation: It had a good ride on Dictionary.com in the first few months of the year due to a round of social media fun with the "What in tarnation" meme that had animals and various objects wearing cowboy hats.
  • Horologist: As in master clockmaker, like the one featured in the podcast S-Town, the highly anticipated This American Life follow-up to the popular Serial podcast. All seven episodes of murder intrigue were released at once in March. "Horologist," used in the radio story, trended around that time.
  • Totality: There were look-up spikes in August. Thank you, solar eclipse and your narrow band of totality, meaning the strip of land where the sun was completely obscured by the moon.
(Read more Word of the Year stories.)

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