Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005 Word of the Year

Pronunciation: in-'te-gr&-tE
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English integrite, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French integrité, from Latin integritat-, integritas, from integr-, integer entire
1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : INCORRUPTIBILITY
2 : an unimpaired condition : SOUNDNESS
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : COMPLETENESS
synonym: see HONESTY

Surely I'm not the only one who finds it ironic that the Merriam-Webster "Word of the Year" for 2005 is "integrity". The title is earned by the word with the most online lookups. It is easy to understand why the other 9 words in the Top Ten were looked up in 2005 -- refugee, contempt, filibuster, insipid, tsunami, pandemic, conclave, levee, inept -- each of those clearly call to mind events of this year. But integrity? Who was looking that up? It certainly wasn't Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, Judy Miller, Bill Frist, or way too many others who, like the levees, turned out to lack the integrity we expected. Nor was it Ian Fishback, who knows the word well and would have no need to look it up. Perhaps there was a mass of good people who, like Diogenes, were looking anywhere and everywhere to find a man of integrity. Given the sad shortage of integrity in public example, they resorted to the dictionary. On the bright side, we enter 2006 with that many more people knowing what "integrity" means. Maybe it will inspire some new years resolutions.

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