Trending: Neanderthal

Lookups spiked 14,250% on March 3, 2021

Why are people looking up Neanderthal?

President Biden's comments on the lifting of public health restrictions in Texas and Mississippi on March 3, 2021 included the use of a colorful word to describe what he considers to be unscientific and inadvisable decisions on the part of the governors of those states:

The last thing — the last thing — we need is the Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything's fine, take off your mask. Forget it. It still matters.

What does Neanderthal mean?

The scientific use of Neanderthal is very specific:

an extinct hominid (Homo neanderthalensis synonym H. sapiens neanderthalensis) known from skeletal remains found from western Europe to central Asia that lived from about 30,000 to 200,000 years ago and had a stocky, heavily muscled build and an elongated skull with a prominent supraorbital ridge, receding forehead, and undeveloped chin

It can be used figuratively to mean "a person with extremely old-fashioned and outdated ideas and opinions," and, both figuratively and informally, it means "a crude or brutish person."

Where does Neanderthal come from?

Neanderthal derives from the discovery in 1856 of remains in a cave above Germany's Neander Valley, and anthropologists used the geographical name to create a scientific name for this species of human ancestors.

What is notable about this use of Neanderthal?

Because Neanderthal derives from a German place name, it is usually capitalized.

The -th- can be pronounced in the English manner (as it would be in thaw) or can be pronounced as a simple /t/ sound, closer to the original German. Both are common, standard, and correct in English.

Citations

Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.

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