WORDPLAY

Now that the US election is over, Americans want to know what “fascism” means

Obsession
Language
Obsession
Language

Less than a week after Donald Trump was named president-elect, the United States’ political vocabulary has taken a dark turn.

On Nov. 14, the online dictionary Merriam-Webster said in a blogpost that searches for “fascism” had increased over four-fold since the same period in 2015.

The night before, the dictionary had revealed its top lookups: Around 5.40pm EST—five nights after the general election—terms like bigot, xenophobe, racism, and misogyny had risen to become the dictionary’s most-searched words.

Merriam-Webster has not provided raw data about the number of searches but it shared the increase in the volumes of each query compared to the same time last year.

Increased curiosity around these words is hardly surprising. Many news sites and social media users have employed words like “xenophobia” and “misogyny” to describe Trump’s campaign for president, in which he repeatedly asked to “register” Muslims, made derogatory comments about women, and was accused of sexual assault, among other things.

Back in July, Merriam-Webster lexicographer Peter Sokolowski told Quartz that words like socialism and capitalism have been consistently popular searches since 2012, but searches for the word fascism have “raised quickly during this election cycle.” However, he warns not to read too much into it.

It’s not just political reasons that drive word traffic: fascism is tricky to spell and some users might simply want to double-check what it means, where it comes from and what its connotations are, in order to avoid using it carelessly.

“Fascism” holding steadfast post-election is likely a sign that “people are engaged and concerned BOTH about the issues and the language we use to describe them,” Sokolowsi tweeted on Nov. 14.

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