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Top words and phrases of 2009 provide insight into global psyche

Annie Wakefield
Digital Marketing Manager
1 December 2009

I’m a copywriter and something of a closet linguist – I just love languages: the way they change and grow and can be manipulated and… well, don’t get me started – so when I came across a list of the most used words in 2009 I wasn’t very surprised to see Twitter at number 1. According to Global Language Monitor, a Texas based company which documents, analyses and tracks trends in language the world over, with a particular emphasis upon Global English, Twitter has a quarter of a billion references on Google.

Some other words on the list did surprise me though. Being an American company, the research was obviously done in America and therefore does not necessarily reflect the words of the world. However, it does give one a little bit of insight in the American psyche.

Top 5 words of 2009

obama_hopeLet’s start at the top: number one is Twitter, the new social media communication tool which allows those with the ability to encapsulate human thought in 140 characters to communicate with the world, whether it be from the White House or from prison.

Close on Twitter’s heels at number 2 comes Obama, which makes perfect sense considering all the hullabaloo which he has kicked up around another two words on the list – Stimulus at number 4 – the $800 billion aid package meant to help mend the US economy – and Healthcare at number 9 – the direction of which is the subject of intense debate in the US.

At number 3 we have H1N1. Swine Flu has been a big issue in 2009, with hundreds of people being infected across the globe after its initial outbreak in Mexico.

Number 5 on the list really made me shake my head in despair: Vampire. According to the list vampires are “very much en vogue, now the symbol of unrequited love”. Before we get into a debate about the literary value of Twilight (hey, at least the kids are reading), let’s look at the top phrases of 2009.

Top 10 phrases of 2009

I’m going to leave out the obviously American phrases like Too Large to Fail (Institutions that are deemed necessary for financial stability – at number 5) and Public Option (The ability to buy health insurance from a government entity – at number 7) and point out the more global ones, like King of Pop. At number one, Michael Jackson is still on everyone lips, despite the fact that he only passed on 6 months into the year. Obama-mania comes in at number 2 – not much of a surprise, but a bit sad that it’s on the heels of King of Pop.

smoke stackClimate Change is number 3, so at least people are talking about the issue. Swine Flu understandably comes next at number 4. For the techies, it’s Cloud Computing at number 6. Apparently the term used to describe people using the Internet for a variety of computer services has caught on.

And lastly the two words which may prove to be as important (and hopefully as disappointing) as Y2K and give a little insight into where we are headed scientifically and globally are Mayan Calendar at number 9 and God Particle at number 10.

The Mayan Calendar consists of various cycles, one of which ends on 21 December 2012 and is said to signal the end of the world (as we know it – which could well mean that little will change, or that the planet will self implode, or something equally dramatic).

The God particle is a reference to a theorized but yet unobserved sub atomic particle called the Higgs Boson, which could be the mother particle and give rise to Gravity and explain various other really confusing things. It also has something to do with the Large Hadron Collider, the mechanics of which is believed to hold the secrets of the Big Bang – and could possibly cause another Big Bang which could result in the planet being sucked into a black hole the size of a pinhead…or something.

The analysis was completed in late November this year using the company’s Predictive Quantities Indicator, an in house algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the media and on the Internet, and now also includes blogs and social media.

The words are tracked in relation to frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets, and take into account long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum and velocity. Sounds like my kind of office…

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