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7 better choices for Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year

Culture? Nope, that's garbage. These are the most important words of 2014.


Miles Klee

Internet Culture

Posted on Dec 16, 2014   Updated on May 29, 2021, 11:28 pm CDT

Yesterday, Merriam-Webster embarrassed themselves by selecting “culture,” a stodgy old noun by all accounts, as the official word of 2014. They say the winner is determined by the site’s search data, an excuse we heartily reject. 

Much as we hate the choice, however, it’s only slightly worse than’s “exposure” and the Oxford Dictionaries’ “vape.” Where have all the good words gone? Oh, they’re around, but you’d have to hack into a teenager’s smartphone to find them. To save you the trouble, we humbly offer these few alternatives, any one of which would succinctly sum up these last long dozen months. Expect a vocab quiz tomorrow.


You probably noticed that this year was bad, i.e., garbage. Chuck Johnson and Rolling Stone gave us garbage journalism. Justin Bieber and Donald Trump hit us with garbage tweets galore. The midterm elections were choked with garbage candidates and garbage referenda. Even the stuff you couldn’t get enough of—fanboy rumors about Marvel movies, screenshots of man-children throwing tantrums on Tinder when their negs didn’t work—were meaningless, disposable, and soon forgotten. What a dump!    


The only appropriate response to garbage, challenges, and nauseating skyscraper selfies alike, “nope” is a catch-all word that means “I am going to close my eyes to the reality of what I read and try to move on with my life as if everything were totally fine.” 

Rarely have we needed it more than in the wake of the grand jury decisions regarding Michael Brown and Eric Garner, or while watching Dick Cheney argue that torture is a moral good. The period is optional but lends an ideal emphasis.


Not long ago, the theft and dissemination of private data would have been thought of as a “hack.” Now, often as not, the deliberate pilfering of Jennifer Lawrence’s nudes or Target customers’ credit card numbers or Sony’s embarrassing corporate emails is considered as natural as a drunk commuter pissing into a Penn Station urinal and getting most of it on his slacks. 

Nobody’s really responsible, the entire Internet reaps the spoils, and we pretend that somewhere, someone is sticking their finger in a dyke to prevent it from happening again.

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This list wouldn’t be complete without a term that Caucasians appropriated from black people and ruined within the space of a week. To be “on fleek” is to be “on point” or “on game,” and you can definitely stop saying it now, Dad. Runner-up in this category: “Bye Felicia.”


In the end, 2014 left us with questions. Why do angry men keep going on shooting sprees? Why hasn’t every state legalized recreational weed like Colorado did? Why is it so damn hard to find a missing airplane? 

All these queries and hundreds more that nobody asked were not-really-answered by a cascade of hot takes bearing headlines designed to ensnare the Google searcher given to childish constructions: “Why [X] matters,” “Why [X] won’t actually happen,” “Why everyone is wrong about [X].” Why did we put up with this discourse between casual ignorance and overexplanation? Why don’t you tell me.

Update 2:56pm ET, Dec. 16: Dang, we totally forgot about thirsty randos. Also “dang.”

Photo by Flazingo Photos/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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*First Published: Dec 16, 2014, 4:16 pm CST