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What does that word mean, NYT?
June 13, 2010 5:54 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times has compiled a list of the 50 words which are most frequently queried in their stories. Mirabile dictu (no. 19) that it's redoutable (no. 17)!
posted by anothermug (45 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Double?
posted by youarenothere at 5:58 AM on June 13, 2010


Queried? You mean by their incredibly obnoxious "if you click anywhere on our text you'll get a definition for no reason" B.S? Lately they've been popping up a little question mark if you select anything, which is a lot better. But man that 'click anywhere get a definition' thing was annoying as hell.
posted by delmoi at 5:59 AM on June 13, 2010 [17 favorites]


Questionmark? I thought that was a bent paper clip...
posted by infini at 6:04 AM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not really a double. They did it last year and again this year.

Since the Times has decided to ban "tweet", they should similarly forbid Maureen Dowd from ever again coining words like "baldenfreude". Ish.
posted by briank at 6:44 AM on June 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you click on a word in the NYT 3 times, the question mark pops up; if you click the question mark, a definition will pop up in a new window. But this ends up being equivalent to: if you click on a word 4 times, a definition will pop up in a new window.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:56 AM on June 13, 2010


I'm surprised that people would need to look up Kristallnacht. I assumed that was a staple of WWII knowledge.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mirabile dictu was new to me. Ooooooh, my high school Latin teacher would smack me so hard for that.
posted by heyho at 7:11 AM on June 13, 2010


just noticed reading a couple NYT book reviews :P

Leslie Gelb on Peter Beinart's Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris - "This is far too much historical water for any single concept to bear."

William Easterly on Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist - "He makes them into a comprehensive explanation for all of human progress, which is more weight than they can bear."

that is all!
posted by kliuless at 7:21 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It was oddly heartening to see "inchoate" at the top of the list because I can never remember its definition, no matter how many times I look it up. And I've probably looked it up at least 10 times in the past.
posted by hegemone at 7:24 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I bet I'm the only one who didn't need to look up "solipsistic".
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:25 AM on June 13, 2010 [27 favorites]


For once, I agree with delmoi. I HATE the fact that at NYT I can't select text and do a Google-search on it, in Firefox, like I can do with every other source of text on the entire web. I have to retype it into Google. BAH.
posted by intermod at 7:54 AM on June 13, 2010


They still haven't completely fixed my complaint from that last post, but I've been trying hard to be better about clicking and dragging anyway, so it only gets me about once or twice a week now instead of several times a day.

Yay progress?
posted by educatedslacker at 8:08 AM on June 13, 2010


I bet I'm the only one who didn't need to look up "solipsistic".

Pfft. Yeah, but I bet you hat to look up hubris, just like all those other morons.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:18 AM on June 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey: "I bet I'm the only one who didn't need to look up "solipsistic"."

Thank you for giving me a good laugh this eary in the morning.
posted by brundlefly at 8:29 AM on June 13, 2010


I like the word canard, because I often forget what it means, but I know enough French to think a duck?, which immediately reminds me of "A duck!"

Problem solved.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:33 AM on June 13, 2010


Not to be one to disparage high culture, but perhaps the NYT should start doing a public service and inlining the definitions to the most frequently queried words on their website.
I don't think they should just stop using the words because that is how people learn, but if a lot of their readers are having trouble with some terms, they could do their audience a lot of good by just putting the definition in there. I wouldn't be offended.
posted by anifinder at 8:38 AM on June 13, 2010


Whenever I see canard I think of the think of the horizontal stabilizer on a SAAB Viggen, which puts me even further off the mark.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:43 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, at least I knew what "ersatz" means - it's a sort of Japo-Scandinavian imitation veal substitute. Lots of air pockets.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:47 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since the Times has decided to ban "tweet", they should similarly forbid Maureen Dowd from ever again coining words like "baldenfreude".

If they did that, they wouldn't be left with enough of a word count to get a column out of her every week.
posted by blucevalo at 8:55 AM on June 13, 2010


I was surprised to see 'overhaul' at 22. It seems such a common word.
posted by esome at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2010


I was surprised to see 'overhaul' at 22. It seems such a common word.

Yeah, that was the one that seemed inexplicable to me too. But it's #22 ordered by total number of lookups. This is slanted toward words that the NYT uses more often. "Overhaul" was used much more than any other word on the list. And the "lookups per use" is much less than any other word on the list: only 4 people on average looked it up each time it was used. (This adds up to thousands of lookups because the NYT used it about 600 times.) I bet there are a lot of other words like this (fairly common words that the NYT uses frequently, which are looked up by a tiny number of people each time they're used), and it's anomaly that one of them made it onto the list.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:09 AM on June 13, 2010


an anomaly
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:09 AM on June 13, 2010


shoot, i better get to work!
posted by edouble2nyc at 9:12 AM on June 13, 2010


I love vocabulary. And I love that the Times doesn't dumb down its vocabulary. These are all great words and phrases -- packed with meaning, but not unnecessarily recondite or recherche! Except baldenfreude, which is cringey.
posted by yarly at 9:56 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So I'm the only one who didn't know the meaning of renminbi? I probably could have figured it out within the context of the story.

Last night my husband and I were doing a NY Times crossword and we were both stumped by 6 Down: Hallux. I swear I've never seen that word in print before but it may come in useful in the future.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:14 AM on June 13, 2010


I bet I'm the only one who had to look up a majority of them despite having encountered them in my readings; on more than one occasion.
posted by Student of Man at 10:26 AM on June 13, 2010


Can I really be the first person here to berate the NYT for publishing this in PDF instead of, oh, I don't know, text or HTML something?
posted by finite at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2010


Can I really be the first person here to berate the NYT for publishing this in PDF instead of, oh, I don't know, text or HTML something?

No, I was doing it ... in my mind.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:33 AM on June 13, 2010


It was oddly heartening to see "inchoate" at the top of the list because I can never remember its definition, no matter how many times I look it up.

That's because inchoate="hard to remember".

Next time you can't remember what it means, maybe this will jog your memory . . .
posted by flug at 12:05 PM on June 13, 2010


It looks like the need to embiggen their verbiage to engender more cromulent paradigms amongst their interlocutors.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:07 PM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


oh like that is it?
posted by infini at 12:21 PM on June 13, 2010


Can I really be the first person here to berate the NYT for publishing this in PDF instead of, oh, I don't know, text or HTML something?

And as obnoxious as the aforementioned define-any-clicked-word feature is, the one place it would be welcome is on a list of frequently-clicked-on words.
posted by condour75 at 3:56 PM on June 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


I knew some of these, I thought I knew some of these, I looked them all up, made a list, checked it twice, and no matter now naughty or nice I am, I still can't remember inchoate either. And that is the verisimilitude!
posted by Oyéah at 4:23 PM on June 13, 2010


I wonder how my regularly scheduled several paragraph selections that accidentally generate a lookup affect the statistics? ;)
posted by wierdo at 4:48 PM on June 13, 2010


And as obnoxious as the aforementioned define-any-clicked-word feature is, the one place it would be welcome is on a list of frequently-clicked-on words.

This this this this this.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:24 PM on June 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can't be the only one shocked that more people don't know that "antediluvian" OBVIOUSLY refers to ancient progenitor vampires waiting for the End Times.

I mean, come on, people.
posted by mightygodking at 6:14 PM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


mightygodking, trust me. You are absolutely not the only one.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:20 PM on June 13, 2010


Yeah, I remember looking up a lot of these words (not on NYT, but in general).

Some of them, like "profligate," I always have to re-look up. It's one of those words that I never remember what it means no matter how many times I look it up. And again, here and now as I write this I realize that I've again forgotten what it means, and I'm not even going to bother looking it up this time.

The only thing I think I remember is that it's an adjective even though it looks more like a noun.
posted by jeremy b at 12:24 AM on June 14, 2010


I'm surprised that people would need to look up Kristallnacht. I assumed that was a staple of WWII knowledge.

Huh? Kristallnacht happened in November 1938. WW2 is commonly said to have begun nearly ten months later, September 1st of '39, with the invasion of Poland.

(Unless you're counting the Anschluss, the Italian invasion of Ethiopia or the Japanese invasions of China and Mongolia? But these are not commonly seen as part of WW2, as it was only the invasion of Poland that finally provoked the UK and France to declare war on Germany.)

Kristallnacht is staple of Shoah knowledge, but the Shoah was distinct from and began before the war, in 1933.
posted by orthogonality at 1:17 AM on June 14, 2010


My point was that I expect the average US high school history class to cover Kristallnacht during their unit on WWII/the Holocaust; therefore it should be familiar to NY Times readers.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 4:01 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


For those who are interested, here's the list in non-pdf with definitions from Google:

1 "inchoate"--only partly in existence; imperfectly formed
2 "profligacy"--the trait of spending extravagantly
3 "sui generis"--(Latin) constituting a class of its own; unique
4 "austerity"--the trait of great self-denial (especially refraining from worldly pleasures)
5 "profligate"--a dissolute man in fashionable society ; the adjectival form of profligacy
6 "baldenfreude"--a novel variety of Schadenfreude – pleasure felt at the misfortune of others – relating specifically to the discomfiture of those with little or no hair. Not actually a word.
7 "opprobrium"--state of disgrace resulting from public abuse
8 "apostates"--plural of apostate, one who has abandoned one's religious faith, a political party, one's principles, or a cause
9 "solipsistic"--characterized by solipsism, the theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified
10 "obduracy"--resoluteness by virtue of being unyielding and inflexible
11 "internecine"--(of conflict) within a group or organization
12 "soporific"--sleep inducing
13 "Kristallnacht"--The night of November 9, 1938, on which the Nazis coordinated an attack on Jewish people and their property in Germany
14 "peripatetic"--walking about or from place to place; traveling on foot.
15 "nascent"--being born or beginning
16 "desultory"--marked by lack of definite plan or regularity or purpose; jumping from one thing to another
17 "redoubtable"-- formidable; inspiring fear
18 "hubris"--overbearing pride or presumption
19 "mirabile dictu"--(Latin) wonderfully, amazingly; It's a miracle!
20 "crèches"--plural of crèche, a hospital where foundlings (infant children of unknown parents) are taken in and cared for
21 "apoplectic"--pertaining to or characteristic of apoplexy, sudden impairment of neurological function, especially that resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage; a stroke
22 "overhaul"--to examine or go over carefully for needed repairs
23 "ersatz"--an artificial or inferior substitute or imitation; adjective describing the state of being an imitation
24 "obstreperous"--noisily and stubbornly defiant
25 "jejune"--insubstantial; lacking in nutritive value
posted by albrecht at 10:44 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


The second half of the list:

26 "omertà"--a code of silence practiced by the Mafia; a refusal to give evidence to the police about criminal activities
27 "putative"--purported; commonly put forth or accepted as true on inconclusive grounds
28 "Manichean"--of or relating to Manichaeism, one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia
29 "canard"--a deliberately misleading fabrication
30 "ubiquitous"--being present everywhere at once
31 "atavistic"--characteristic of an atavist, an organism that has the characteristics of a more primitive type of that organism
32 "renminbi"--the official currency of the People's Republic of China (PRC), with the exception of Hong Kong and Macau
33 "sanguine"--confidently optimistic and cheerful
34 "antediluvian"--extremely old and antiquated
35 "cynosure"--something that provides guidance
36 "alacrity"--liveliness and eagerness
37 "epistemic"--of, relating to, or involving knowledge; cognitive
38 "egregious"--conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible
39 "incendiary"--causing or capable of causing fire
40 "chimera"--an imaginary monster made up of grotesquely disparate parts
41 "laconic"--brief and to the point; effectively cut short
42 "polemicist"--a writer who argues in opposition to others (especially in theology)
43 "comity"--a state or atmosphere of harmony or mutual civility and respect
44 "provenance"--birthplace; where something originated or was nurtured in its early existence
45 "sclerotic"--relating to or having sclerosis; hardened
46 "prescient"--perceiving the significance of events before they occur
47 "hegemony"--the dominance or leadership of one social group or nation over others
48 "verisimilitude"--the appearance of truth; the quality of seeming to be true
49 "feckless"--not fit to assume responsibility
50 "démarche"--a move or step or maneuver in political or diplomatic affairs
posted by albrecht at 10:58 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


My point was that I expect the average US high school history class to cover Kristallnacht during their unit on WWII/the Holocaust; therefore it should be familiar to NY Times readers.

Do you remember every fact you learned in high school?
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:18 AM on June 14, 2010


Since The Times has decided to ban "tweet"; they should similarly forbid Maureen Dowd from ever again coining words like "baldenfreude".

Fixed that for you.
posted by atbash at 12:16 PM on June 14, 2010


Do you remember every fact you learned in high school?

Of course not. I’m just saying that I expect the average NY Times reader to have a passing familiarity with important historical terms, particularly those relating to one of the most high-profile conflicts of the past hundred years. Is that so bizarre? Maybe my concept of key terms differs from the norm.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 12:49 PM on June 14, 2010


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