Friday, April 09, 2010

Most looked-up words at the NYTs

This is not new, but it's new to me. You're likely aware that if you double click on a word on the online version of the New York Times, the definition pops up. Well, it seem that the NYT keeps track of which words folks pop up most and the list, as of last June is available here. The top 10 lookups per use are:

saturnine
solipsistic
bonobo
phlogiston
epistemological
shibboleths
adenoidal
sumptuary
appurtenances
sui generis

The only ones I knew were bonobo, shibboleth, and adenoidal. I've looked up epistemological many time, but I still can't say I really know what it means. Do you fare any better than me?

6 comments:

GAC said...

I know solipsistic, bonobo, phogiston, epistemological*, and shibboleths at least functionally off the top of my head.

Of the most surprising to see was phlogiston. Only thing I can think of is that string theory has occasionally been compared to phlogiston: a philosophical placeholder theory that serves as a "best guess" until something better comes along.

* I knew epistemological functionally from its use on medical blogs. However the definition on Wikipedia seems different from what I expected.

Levi Montgomery said...

I had to look up phlogiston. Other than that, I was ok, although they're certainly not everyday words in my circles!

vilges suola said...

I knew them all, but 'epistemological' is on the edge of what I know. Isn't it to do with determining some truth through analysis? PanEPISTIMio is Modern greek for 'university', so there's some connection there. I remember 'phlogiston' from school chemistry lessons circa 1970.

Thomas said...

I knew them all except "sumptuary" which I guessed had something to do with excessive luxury (not quite). The reason I knew most of them is that I just finished reading "Lolita," which may have used ALL of these words except phlogiston and bonobo. Nabokov actually used the word "solipsized," which I suspect he made up on the spot ("count on a murderer for a fancy prose style..."). I notice that "solipsism" and "solipsistic" are having a real vogue these days, maybe describing all the recent self-absorbed Judd Apatow-style movie characters.

Theophylact said...

Well, yeah, I knew 'em all. But as a one-time teacher of a course on the history of science, "epistemological" and "phlogiston" come with the territory. I first came across solipsism in a Theodore Sturgeon story, "The Ultimate Egoist", I knew about sumptuary laws a long time ago (probably from Latin class), and bonobos have been in the news a lot in the past few years because of arguments in evolutionary psychology.

Theophylact said...

Well, yeah, I knew 'em all. But as a one-time teacher of a course on the history of science, "epistemological" and "phlogiston" come with the territory. I first came across solipsism in a Theodore Sturgeon story, "The Ultimate Egoist", I knew about sumptuary laws a long time ago (probably from Latin class), and bonobos have been in the news a lot in the past few years because of arguments in evolutionary psychology.