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Apocalyptic Words Likely to Top 2013 List, Continuing 2012 Trend of 'Impending Doom


“Apocalypse (Armageddon, and similar terms) reflects a growing fascination with various ‘end-of-the-world’ scenarios, or at least the end of life as we know it."

The most-uttered words of 2013 are likely to be as gloomy as 2012, when the top word was "apocalypse" and the top names were "Newtown" - the site of the horrific elementary school shooting in Connecticut -- and "Malala Yousafzai" -- the Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for championing the education of girls..

More apocalyptic headlines are likely because the news will be filled with reports on global warming, near-Earth asteroids and the solar max for the sunspot cycle, according to Paul JJ Payack, President of the Global Language Monitor, which produces an annual list of top words. Payack says in a USA Today report today that the coming birth of the first child for Britain's Prince William also should put the name of the royal heir high on the 2013 list.

“Apocalypse (Armageddon, and similar terms) reflects a growing fascination with various ‘end-of-the-world’ scenarios, or at least the end of life as we know it. This year the Mayan Apocalypse was well noted, but some eight of the top words and phrases were directly related to a sense of impending doom,”  Payack wrote in a post on the Global Language Monitor web site. “These included: Apocalypse, Bak’tun, Frankenstorm, Global Warming/Climate Change, God Particle, Rogue Nukes, Solar Max, Near-Earth Asteroid. Media examples include the Mayan apocalypse frenzy in Russia, the US Presidential elections (Obamageddon, Romneygeddon), the threatened dissolution of the common currency in Europe (Eurogeddon), to the call for the United Nations to implement an ‘Armageddon-type’ policy to address previously undetected space rocks hurtling toward Earth.

The following are the top 5 words, phrases and names of 2012 and the explanations as provided by Global Language Monitor. The full lists are available on the Global Language Monitor web site.

Top 5 Words

  1. Apocalypse / Armageddon, and variations thereof  – The word Apocalypse has been in ascendance in the English for more than 500 years.  However,recent years has witnessed an unprecedented resurgence of the word.
  2. Deficit — Looks like deficit-spending will plague Western democracies for at least the next decade. Note to economists of stripes:  reducing the rate of increase of deficit spending actually increases the deficit.
  3. Olympiad — The Greeks measured time by the four-year interval between the Games.  Moderns measure it by medal counts, rights fees and billions of eyeballs.
  4. Bak’tun — A cycle of  144,000 days in the Maya ‘Long Count’ Calendar. This bak’tun ends on December 21, 2012, also being called the Mayan Apocalypse.  (Actually Maya ‘long-count’ calendars stretch hundreds of millions of years into the future, December 21st merely marks the beginning of a new cycle.)
  5. Meme – Internet Memes can best be conceived as thoughts or ideas rather than words, since they can and often do encompass sounds, photos, and text.  Memes are propagated through every imaginable form of electronic communications, eventually surfacing in the traditional print and electronic media.

Top 5 Phrases

  1. Gangnam Style:  A South Korean YouTube video watched 1,000,000,000 times around the world cannot be ignored because it might be considered frivolous.
  2. Global Warming/Climate Change – No. 1 phrases for the first decade of the 21st century; still resonate well into its second decade.
  3. Fiscal Cliff –  Sharp automatic tax increases and spending cuts to U.S. Federal programs that go into effect with the new year — if the Budget Control Act of 2011 is not addressed.
  4. The deficit—the difference between what the government takes in and what it spends—is projected to be reduced by roughly half in 2013
  5. God Particle — The ever-elusive Higgs Boson, the search for which, according to CERN, carries a 1 in 50,000,000 of creating a mini Black Hole that just might swallow the Earth.  Oops.

Top 5 Names

  1. Newtown and Malala Yousafzai (tie) — The Connecticut site of a horrific massacre of innocents; and the Pakistani girl shot by terrorists for promoting the right to education for  girls. 
  2. Xi Jinping — Replaces Hu Jintao, under whose administration China has seen a decade of extraordinary growth.
  3. Kate Middleton — With a baby on the way (and the publishing of photos of a most private nature), the Duchess of Cambridge maintains a high profile.
  4. President Obama – Hope and Change retreat further into the history books as Obama survives a brutal campaign.
  5. Mitt Romney — Soon to depart into the wormhole that most losing US Presidential candidates invariably find themselves.  Dukakis? Mondale? Etc.


According to LanguageMonitor.com, the methodology for selecting the top words, phrases and names is as follows:

GLM’s Word of the Year rankings are based upon actual word usage throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.83 billion people.  To qualify for these lists, the words, names, and phrases must be found globally, have a minimum of 25,000 citations. and the requisite ‘depth’ and ‘breadth’ of usage.  Depth is here defined as appearing in various forms of media; breadth that they must appear world-over, not limited to a particular profession or social group or geography.

GLM employs its NarrativeTracker technologies for global Internet and social media analysis. NarrativeTracker is based on global discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture about any topic, at any point in time. NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the top 275,000 print and electronic global media, as well as new social media sources as they emerge.

​(Front Page Image Photo Credit: AP)

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