A global headache: '404' and 'fail' are the two most popular words of 2013

Most frequently used words drawn from various types of media, covering approximately 1.8 billion people in the English-speaking world

An annual survey of the English-speaking world’s “top words” has seen “404” (“the near-universal numeric code for failure on the global Internet”) take the top spot in 2013.

The survey, carried out by Global Language Monitor, doubles down on this somewhat pessimistic take on the year’s events by ranking “fail” as the second most popular word.

Third and fourth place (“hashtag” and “@pontifex” respectively) both pay tribute to the continuing visibility and impact of social media, with the latter (the Pope’s Twitter handle) suggesting that even more venerable institutions can gain a lot from a little bit of internet literacy.

The rest of the survey (which is collated by trawling print and online media, social networks and blogs for the most frequently used words) provides a handy reference guide to the topics that have got us most worried in the last months.

“Surveillance” comes in at numbers six thanks to revelations about western democracies spying on their citizens, with “drones” following close behind at number seven - reminding us that technology’s capacity to watch from a distance sometimes includes lethal measures.

Financial woes take the number eight and nine spots with “deficit” and “sequestration” (the latter referring to spending cuts in the US) whilst government incompetency also ranks highly: “filibuster” (a delaying tactic for legislative bodies) comes in at number 11 and “deadlock” at number 14.

Unsurprisingly, issues surrounding technology also featured prominently: “nano-“ and “Franken-“ (numbers 12 and 15) are both prefixes suggesting technology spinning out of control (see ‘Grey Goo’) whilst more innocent topics also made an appearance - “meme” came in at number 16 and “The Cloud” at number 18.

Deciding whether to place the thirteenth most popular word, "twerking", in the 'sinister' or 'harmless' camp is more of a matter of taste.

Pope Francis (picture above taking a selfie with teens in Rome) proved popular in 2013.

Top phrases and top names

The Catholic Church also did well in the 'top names' category with Pope Francis taking the top spot. Barack Obama even got two spots (though "ObamaCare" at the number two spot isn't commonly a term of praise in the US), with the "NSA" and whistleblower "Edward Snowden taking third and fourth place. "Kate Middleton" also got a look in as the fifth most popular name.

Meanwhile in the "top phrases" list the feeling of gloom and doom persists. "Toxic politics", "federal shutdown" and "federal deficit" were placed first, second and fourth as reminders of America's struggles with its own government, whilst "chemical weapons" (number eight) and "rogue nukes" (number ten) indicate that there's plenty of more conventional worries to go around.

Even one of the few bright spots on the "top phrases" list was a reaction to a tragedy: "Boston Strong", a phrase that signified "the resilience of Bostonians after the terror of the Marathon Bombing", came in at number six.

Click here to see the full list from Global Language Monitor

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - OTE £60,000

    £35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In 2014, they launched the worl...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Design Lead

    £23958 - £29282 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

    Guru Careers: Bathroom Showroom Manager / Bathroom Sales Designer

    £22 - £25k basic + Commission=OTE £35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Bathroom Sh...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Designer / Developer

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This creative agency requires a...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones