Monday, January 01, 2007

The Zeitgeist of 2006

As we leave 2006 behind, I want to take one last look at the year--because it may help to reveal where we are headed in 2007.

When I returned from my blogging vacation, I mentioned that there were several times I was tempted to post during my sabbatical. One of those times was on December 20, when the Washington Post did an article on the most popular search terms entered into Google during 2006.

The top term was "Bebo," a popular online social networking site in Great Britain, similar to "MySpace," which was the second most popular term.

While YouTube didn't make the list, one of its competitors, Metacafe, did. Another popular term was "Radioblog," a tool used for streaming audio on a website.

According to Google's VP of engineering, the company releases an annual "zeitgeist" of search terms at the end of each year. Zeitgeist is a German word, combining two other words: "zeit" or time and"geist" or spirit. In other words, zeitgeist is "the spirit of the time."

Google says the person we were most interested in googling in 2006 was Paris Hilton, followed by Orlando Bloom.

Other popular terms were "cancer," "podcasting," "Hurricane Katrina" and "bankruptcy." I have to confess to feeling a little creepy when I read those. While I didn't google "Bebo" or "Metacafe," I did actually google three out of four of those last terms in 2006.

The article said, "One larger trend . . . is that this year's Google searches reflect more of an international audience -- the eighth-fastest-growing search term this year was "rebelde," the name of a popular Spanish-language soap opera and a Mexican pop band. "

While we're talking about the year past, let's not forget to look at the words of the year. Last December, I reported that the New Oxford American Dictionary had chosen "podcast" as its word of the year for 2005.

This year, the NOAD chose "carbon neutral" as its word of the year for 2006. According to their website: "Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset: paying to plant new trees or investing in 'green' technologies such as solar and wind power." The selection of that term reflects the growing interest in global warming and the green movement.

Over at Merriam-Webster, they had selected "integrity" as their word of the year in 2005. I wasn't moved enough by their choice to blog on it last December. However, in 2006, following an online survey, the people at M-W selected "truthiness" as their 2006 word of the year.

You'll probably recognize the word, which was coined by comedian Stephen Colbert. Truthiness is the "truth that comes from the gut, not books." reports, "'We're at a point where what constitutes truth is a question on a lot of people's minds, and truth has become up for grabs,' said Merriam-Webster president John Morse. 'Truthiness is a playful way for us to think about a very important issue'."

It will be interesting to see what 2007 has to bring us.

Happy New Year.

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