• Irma Herrera

Justice: Word of 2018


Since 2003 Merriam Webster, America's leading dictionary publisher, compiles a list of its top words of the year. It selects ONE word and ten runners-up.

In an on-line video, Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large, explains the process.

“Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is determined by our on-line dictionary look-up data: the word must show both high volume of traffic and show significant year over year increase in lookups at merriam-webster.com. Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2018 is justice. It was a top lookup throughout the year, 74% more than in 2017. We see spikes in our data that correspond to certain news events and stories reported in the media that help us to understand what drove many people to look up justice so much more frequently this year. The word and the concept of justice has been at the center of so many of our national debates in the past year: racial justice, social justice, criminal justice, economic justice. Any conversation about these topics can naturally lead to seeking a clearer idea of what we mean when we speak of justice.“ Click here for the back story on how justice and ten other words worked their way into our collective consciousness, and to find out what exactly these words mean.

These words provide a window as to what’s on our mind. The top ten runners up to justice were: nationalist, pansexual, lodestar, epiphany, feckless, laurel, pissant, respect, maverick, and excelsior. In many of the cases the lookup was occasioned by a prominent person's use of the word, or when words are used with reference to some important individual. John McCain was often described as a maverick, and when Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a feckless c**t, many looked up feckless, wondering what exactly she meant.

I spend a lot of time thinking about justice and fairness, and what I, as an individual, can do to fight injustice. And looking over my shoulder as I write at my stand-up desk is one of my favorite paintings. Several years ago, my friend Teresa, penned a short email to me “send me your snail mail address, I’m sending you something.”

Nice, I thought, looking forward to receiving a book or some magazine she thought would interest me. Some weeks later a large package arrived at my front door. Inside was a meticulously wrapped 46” x 51” painting with a note saying she thought this belonged with me. Teresa and her spouse, John, were downsizing and planning to travel and eventually moved to Mexico. She had received this as a gift when she retired from an illustrious career creating sustainable communities, and building affordable housing.

La Justica was painted by Phoenix artist, Emily Costelo. Learn more about Emily and her beautiful work here.

I consider myself the entrusted steward of La Justicia, and I will gladly return her to Teresa whenever she may want it. It is a honor to have her in our home. I find myself looking, really looking, at La Justice several times a day, when I need inspiration or am simply taking a break. I wonder if there’s something she needs to tell me. La Justicia is one of the best gifts I have ever received.

I was interested in knowing what Merriam-Webster's words of the year had been in previous years. Here is a complete listing since they started tracking them.

2018 justice

2017 feminism

2016 surreal

2015 -ism (“ism” is a suffix rather than a word, still made it to word of the year. We read and hear it often: ageism, fascism, terrorism, racism, feminism, communism, capitalism . . .

2014 culture

2013 science

2012 socialism

2011 pragmatic

2010 austerity

2009 admonish

2008 bailout

2007 woot

2006 truthiness

2005 integrity

2004 blog

2003 democracy

As we move into the New Year, I wish you and your loved ones good health, and great success in achieving your goals. Take a stand for justice in your day to day lives. When you see or hear an injustice: a racial slur, homophobic jokes, bullying of persons who are disabled, harassment of women and girls, say something. The “See Something, Say Something” national campaign applies not just to Homeland Security, but to everyday acts that belittle and diminish us as individuals. When we witness something that’s not fair, we feel it in our gut. Take the time to say: “that is not OK.” It’s the just thing to do.

Gran exito en 2019 y Adelante.

#equality #justice #civilrights #fairness #merriamwebster

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© 2016 Irma Herrera