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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
Spanish word of the year: populismo 
30th-Dec-2016 01:59 pm
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Spain’s Fundación del Español Urgente, Fundéu, which deals with language issues and the media, today selected its word of the year for 2016: populismo, or “populism.”

It tries to pick words important to current events and that have linguistic interest.

“Clearly, in a year as political as this one, with globally important events like the Brexit, Donald Trump’s electoral win, and the various elections and referenda in the Americas and Spain, Fundéu’s word of the year would have to come from that realm,” says Javier Lascuráin, the foundation’s coordinator general.

The word also has linguistic interest because its meaning has changed. At one time its use was neutral, related to “popular” or “of the people,” especially in contrast with elites or with shifting power from elites to the common people. Lascuráin says the meaning in Spanish has been moving toward more negative connotations.

Now, he says, “it’s often applied to policies of all ideologies, but they have in common the appeal to citizens’ emotions and the offer of simple solutions to complex problems.”

Runner-up words of the year included abstenciocracia, “abstention from voting by the majority”; posverdad, “post-truth”; youtubero, “YouTuber”; ningufonear, “phubbing”; and vendehumos “someone who sells something they don’t have (sell smoke).”

Meanwhile, in English, Oxford Dictionaries went with post-truth. Cambridge Dictionary said paranoid sparked the most online searches. Dictionary.com cited xenophobia. Merriam Webster said “surreal” was looked up often, especially after tragic or surprising events, although fascism also sparked a lot of lookups.

Here in Chicago, according to Merriam Webster, in addition to the words of national interest, people were looking up irregardless after it was used by commentators about the World Series between the Cubs and Cleveland Indians. We also frequently looked up mature, hypocrisy, ignore, arrogant, clubbable, establishment, definition, common sense, and legacy.

Perhaps Chicagoans were only checking the spelling.

— Sue Burke
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