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

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

    SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power