Admonish, philanderer got big hits at online dictionary
When it comes to your popular action verbs, "admonish" got a good workout, thanks to an outburst by a congressman during a speech by President Obama.
The folks at Springfield-based Merriam-Webster Inc. measure the popularity of words by checking out the most frequently requested definitions on www.Merriam-Webster.com, which includes such features as an online dictionary and an online thesaurus.
Merriam-Webster has a list of requests for common words such as "affect" and "effect" that crop up year after year. Then there's a special list for unusual requests, which are often generated by something in the news. Such was the case for "admonish."
"The word of the year that received the highest intensity of searches over the shortest period of time is 'admonish,' defined in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition as, 'to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner,'" the publisher said in a press release.
The release included a statement from Peter A. Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's editor at large.
"Admonish shot to the top of the list three days after Representative Joe Wilson's outburst during a speech made by President Obama, and it remained among our top lookups for weeks," Sokolowski said. "When the House announced plans to 'admonish' Representative Wilson, the word was understood to be technical or official, and it has been repeated often in coverage of recent contentious political issues. While this particular story wasn't very important in the context of a year's worth of news, it triggered enormous interest in this word."
The behavior of some other public figures, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina and talk show host David Letterman, triggered searches on Merriam-Webster.com for the definition of the word "philanderer," the publisher said.
A visit to Merriam-Webster.com turns up an entry that notes that the noun "philanderer" applies to men, and its definition is "to be sexually unfaithful to one's wife."
Sad to say, in a year when layoffs cutbacks were rampant, the word "furlough" was also frequently searched, Merriam-Webster said.
So now the challenge is to use all three words in a single sentence: "A philanderer who fails to be admonished should be furloughed to a monastery for a self-improving stint of monkish unconcern."
Surely Boston.com readers can come up with something better than that. (Globe Staff)