19 November 2009

Another Word of the Year: admonish

Another word, this one coming to us from the folks at Merriam-Webster, has won Word of the Year honors. It's "admonish," a word that resulted in thousands of online lookups after the U.S. House admonished one of its members for calling President Barack Obama a liar during a presidential speech.

That doesn't seem like a word most people would need to look up — but I must confess, I was one of them. I did so for the same reason many others likely did, not to find out its basic meaning, but to see if it had some fine legal distinction to differentiate it from words such as "censure" or "condemn."

The runners-up in the Merriam-Webster "competition" were mostly ones that were also tied to current events: emaciated, empathy, furlough, inaugurate, nugatory, pandemic, philanderer and repose. I'm not sure where "nugatory" came from; it refers to something inconsequential or ineffective.

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