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

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
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

    Ashdown Group: Moodle Developer (PHP ,Linux, Apache, MySQL, Moodle)

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Moodle Developer (PHP ,Linux, Apache...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior .NET Web Developer - Winform / MVC

    £21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Award-winning pharma softw...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Java Developer

    £30000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Java Developer is requ...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all