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'Science' says 'selfie' isn't Word of the Year

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Merriam-Webster uses stats to pick 2013's top word


While Oxford Dictionary's Word of the Year choices often appear to be intentionally buzzy — be it "podcast," the verb "GIF," or this year's selection of "selfie" — Merriam-Webster has turned to statistics to determine its Word of the Year, removing an editorial hand from the selection. That process makes 2013's Word of the Year a fairly fitting winner: science. The selection was based on the word with the greatest increase in lookups over the past year. "Science" may seem like an odd candidate, but Webster's editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, suggests in a statement that it was relevant to this year's news, "A wide variety of discussions centered on science this year, from climate change to educational policy."

"Science" saw a dramatic 176 percent increase in lookups this year. Webster also revealed the nine words that followed it, in order: cognitive, rapport, communication, niche, ethic, paradox, visceral, integrity, and metaphor. It's an eclectic list to be certain, but Webster tries to explain how a few of them got there, tying "communication" and "rapport" to the NSA leaks, "cognitive" to NFL concussion issues, and "niche" to people just being confused about how to pronounce it. Basing the Word of the Year in actual stats certainly makes it more interesting, but it's worth noting that science's win isn't completely untouched by Webster's editors — Webster has been basing its Word of the Year on statistics for several years now, but what stat it's based on has changed more than a few times.