Lookups spiked 1,800% on June 24, 2021
Spurious was among our top lookups on June 24th, 2021, after the Defense Secretary of the United States used the word in testimony before House Representatives.
Military leaders excoriated Rep. Matt Gaetz during a House hearing on Wednesday after the Florida Republican raised questions about critical race theory being taught to the nation’s soldiers. "We do not teach critical race theory, we don't embrace critical theory and I think that is a spurious conversation," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Gaetz during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
— Dartunorro Clark & Mosheh Gains, NBC News, 23 Jun. 2021
Spurious has more than one meaning, a condition that is not uncommon in English. The word’s earliest sense is “born to parents not married to each other”; it may be traced back to the Latin spurius, meaning “bastard.” The sense more likely to have been intended by Secretary Austin is “of a deceitful nature or quality.” Additionally, spurious may mean “outwardly similar or corresponding to something without having its genuine qualities” or “of falsified or erroneously attributed origin.”
In ancient Rome, spurius was sometimes used as a first name for illegitimate offspring. There was a certain Spurius Lucretius, for example, who was made temporary magistrate of Rome. When spurious entered into English use in the 16th century it appears to have found occasional use as a noun (as seen below), but its use as this part of speech is quite archaic and not now common.
And the more we haue sene men come to the opinion of wysedome and to the nomber of yeares, the more subiectes they semed to be to this affection that you haue herde here rehersed. ye anye aliant or straunger, that lyke a bastarde or spurious vilipendeth the name of his natiue countrey, estemynge exile a small matter, & lyke a glotten reposinge his felicitie in the stinkynge and bestly voluptuousnes of the body, and the vile pleasours of the same, yeldinge his industrye to satisfye concupiscence, without studie charge or consideracion of the wele of his countrey, is in no wise to be prosecuted with the argument of a gentle and regratifieng harte.
— Edward Walshe, The office and duety in fightyng for our countrey, 1545
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.