Top Words on Campus

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Merriam-Webster has noted that there's an increase in online searches for certain words at the start of the school year, and they've put together a list of "Top 10 Big Words on Campus". Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster editor at large who was recognized as one of TIME’s Best Twitter Feed’s of 2013, reviews the list of most searched-for terms by college students on Merriam-Webster's site.

Students: what was the last word that you looked up? Professors: which words do you commonly assign? Do they mostly learn toward cultural literacy? Are the words on this list typical? 212-433-WNYC, 212-433-9692.

"Top 10 Big Words on Campus" 

1. Culture

2. Irony

3. Metaphor

4. Rhetoric

5. Allegory

6. Heuristic

7. Aesthetic

8. Diversity

9. Plagiarize

10. Pedagogy


Peter Sokolowski

Comments [11]

kit marshall from Massachusetts

Funny, my answer is just like a previous one written by Robin Chilton. I was always told to look it up therefore I always tell my kids to look it up. Must be genetic... and if you don't know what that means... look it up!

Sep. 19 2013 08:32 PM
StThank god the word awsome is not onephen Folkson from Oakland Gardens, NY 11364

Thank goodness the word awesome is not on the list. If I hear that word once more,
I will come close to projectile vomiting!

Sep. 19 2013 07:37 AM
Joy from Brussels

Current show - the woman who called about her father saying "bye" for "boy," etc. - that's CLASSIC Newfoundland English! (Of course many Newfoundlanders are of Irish ancestry.) And one of the classic Newfoundland songs is "I'se the bye" - which translates as "I'm the boy." (posted by a true New Yorker who now lives in Newfoundland but is listening on the web from Brussels at the moment...)

oh, and the female equivalent of cuckold is wife

Sep. 18 2013 01:53 PM
Robin Chilton from New Jersey

Now that I'm a parent, I've finally figured out why my father always said, "Look it up" when I asked him what a word meant. When my kids ask me for a definition my mind goes blank. I KNOW what the word means but I just can't seem to explain it. My response, more often than not, "Go look it up."

Sep. 18 2013 01:02 PM
antonio from baySide


Sep. 18 2013 11:57 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I keep getting "heuristic" & "hermeneutic" mixed up....

Sep. 18 2013 11:55 AM
j from CT

I blame Alanis Morissette for the current misuse of the word irony..:)

Sep. 18 2013 11:54 AM

Culture (and subculture) is one of mine too. (I teach US History and women's and gender studies.) And hegemony.

Sep. 18 2013 11:54 AM
Phoebe from bushwick

I would imagine hegemony would make the list. I must have looked that up 100 times in college.

Sep. 18 2013 11:53 AM
Jack from Brooklyn

Hegemony (Chomsky might like that.)

Sep. 18 2013 11:50 AM
John P MacKenzie from Long Island City

i was already a junior in college when i learned, the hard way, the meaning of the word "parietal."
My glee club was joined by the Radcliffe women for a concert, and each male hosted a woman before the performance, all chosen by lot. i was in awe of those visiting singers, they were musical masters and also attractive. My companion asked me, "What are the parietal rules at Amherst?" i didn't know the meaning of the word, though it was in very common usage at Harvard. i said something ridiculous and changed the subject. She was asking, of course, what were the rules for the hours when women and men could be together in their campus living quarters? That was a major topic for us too, just not by the label. Years later it occurred to me that my social future might have been much different if i had caught the meaning of her question. i saw her once more on a visit to the Harvard campus, but i forgot her name.

Sep. 18 2013 10:13 AM

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