WordWatch roundup: redaction, siege, and tiki-taka
This series investigates changes in lookups for words and their meanings across OxfordDictionaries.com. The graphs are based on website data collected over a four-week period, and the accompanying commentary explores how news and other current events have influenced these word trends and sudden peaks in interest.
On 9 December, the United States Senate Intelligence Committee released its long-delayed report on the post-9/11 interrogation program run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which concluded that the program was far less effective in combating terrorism than many initially thought. The release of this ‘torture report’ has had widespread effects, ranging from a resounding denunciation from the Russian government to re-examinations in the media of the Bush administration‘s actions following 9/11.
As is typically the case with declassified documents, there are more than a handful of redactions, or “the censoring or obscuring of part of a text for legal or security purposes,” in the report. According to reports in the UK press, several passages in the report were redacted at the request of British spies, a claim confirmed by a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron. This acknowledgment has created concerns in the British public that the UK may have had a greater role in the CIA’s interrogation than most had previously been aware of.
On 15 December, an armed man who was later identified as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born, self-proclaimed ‘sheikh’ with an extensive criminal background, took 17 people hostage in a café in downtown Syndey and held them there for 16 hours. The hostage situation ended the next day when tactical police stormed the café after hearing gunfire inside. The crisis ended with two hostages and Monis being killed by gunfire and several hostages and a police officer wounded.
Quickly dubbed the ‘Sydney siege’ by Australian media, due to the police siege of the café, the incident provoked discussion not only about the seeming failure of the criminal system, but also the public perception of Islam in Australia and elsewhere. Worries that people wearing Islamic dress might be subject to harassment in the wake of the incident led to the Twitter hashtag #illridewithyou, which social media users employed to demonstrate solidarity with Islamic men and women who might feel uncomfortable traveling on public transportation.
A fast-paced style of soccer play involving accurate, short passing with an emphasis on retaining possession of the ball, tiki-taka is most often associated with La Liga team FC Barcelona. The word has roots in the early 21st century and comes from the Spanish word tiqui-taca, which is likely imitative in origin, from the sound of quickly passing the ball. Since its implementation on FC Barcelona, tiki-taka has quickly emerged as an important new strategy in the soccer world.
Some of the attention is no doubt due to the word recently being added to OxfordDictionaries.com, although several articles have highlighted the embrace of tiki-taka by teams such as Bayern Munich.
The reason for the rise in lookups of oligarch is probably the struggling Russian economy. The value of the ruble, the currency of Russia, has taken a steep dive, falling about 45% against the dollar so far this year, pushing the country deeper into a financial crisis.
Although oligarchy, as a form of government, refers to a system under which a small group of people have control of a country or organization, oligarch can also refer to a very wealthy businessperson who wields a great deal of government influence. The presence of oligarchs is a particular feature of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s time in power, with many people who have relationships to Putin having become oligarchs during his time as president.
Dating from the late 19th century, oligarchy comes from Greek oligarkhēs, from oligoi ‘few’ + arkhein ‘to rule’.
Coming from the name of the invented land Brobdingnag, where everything is a huge size, which is featured in Jonathan Swift’s 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels, Brobdingnagian refers to something gigantic. This word, along with Lilliputian and yahoo, represents one of Jonathan Swift’s many gifts to the English language.
Aside from the word’s appearance in one or two articles about the recently-released film The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which made reference to the Brobdingnagian size of the dragon Smaug, it’s hard to say why so many people have been looking it up.
Do you have any idea why Brobdingnagian is trending? Tell us in the comments section below!
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