The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Oxford dictionaries can have selfie, Merriam-Webster goes with 'science' as word of the year

  • Print

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Look alive, selfie. There's another word of the year that's not all about you.

While Oxford University Press, the British publisher of the Oxford dictionaries, declared those little smartphone self-portraits its winner last month, the folks at Merriam-Webster announced "science" on Tuesday.

Oxford tracked a huge jump in overall usage of selfie, but Merriam-Webster stuck primarily to look-ups on its website, recording a 176 per cent increase for science when compared with last year.

"The more we thought about it, the righter it seemed in that it does lurk behind a lot of big stories that we as a society are grappling with, whether it's climate change or environmental regulation or what's in our textbooks," said John Morse, president and publisher of Merriam-Webster Inc., based in Springfield, Mass.

Science, he said, is connected to broad cultural oppositions — science versus faith, for instance — along with the power of observation and intuition, reason and ideology, evidence and tradition. Of particular note, to Merriam-Webster, anyway, is fallout from the October release of Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants."

Gladwell, a popularizer of scientific thought and research in bestsellers and The New Yorker magazine, takes on the challenges of obstacles and the nature of disabilities and setbacks in the book. But he leaves science itself — according to some critics — as a rhetorical device for his main mission of storytelling.

The tweets, blog posts and online commentary about the book — yay and nay — proliferated as Gladwell hit the road to promote it. Peter Sokolowski, a lexicographer and editor at large for Merriam-Webster, called the Gladwell dustup a symptom of where science stands today.

With the explosion of information and technology, are we all scientists?

"You have scientists writing long pieces, purportedly reviews of his new book, basically criticizing him, and then his response is: 'Hey, buddy. I'm not a scientist. I'm a writer who's trying to promote the work of scientists. To contextualize it. To make it accessible.' You know, 'Don't blame me for not being a scientist' is basically his response," Sokolowski said.

Jason Silva is neither scientist nor academic. He's a "techno optimist," filmmaker, "performance philosopher" and host of the popular "Brain Games" show on the National Geographic Channel.

"Ooh, that's awesome," he said upon learning of science's dictionary shout-out. "People are increasingly scientifically minded, and that makes me very happy."

Count him among those who believe art and science are two sides of the same coin. Right now, thanks to the digital ease of sharing information and the explosion of technology, "The world is infinite. You can indulge your curiosity."

Are more people looking to science for inspiration, hence looking up the word on a dictionary website for solace or motivation?

"We bear witness to the astonishing capacities for scientific knowledge to aid us in transcending our seeming boundaries, to realize they're not really boundaries," Silva offers. "It's a great thing. Let's celebrate that."

___

Follow Leanne Italie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/litalie

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Chief justices breakdown cameras in courtroom project

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two Canada geese fly Wednesday afternoon at Oak Hammock Marsh- Front bird is banded for identification- Goose Challenge Day 3- - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Canada goose protects her nest full of eggs Monday on campus at the University of Manitoba- Standup photo- Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google