The tragic death of nine people, including former L. A. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, caused a number of words to spike on January 26th, 2020. In addition to surreal, legend, legacy, and mamba all increased dramatically in lookups.
Basketball Legend Kobe Bryant And Daughter Gianna Die In Helicopter Crash
— (headline) NPR (npr.org), 26 Jan. 2020
“I will love Kobe forever and always cherish the time that I spent with him,” continued West, now a Clippers consultant. “I watched him grow from an energetic kid into the man he became, making a difference in so many people’s life. He has left the world a better place. Kobe’s legacy will live forever.”
— Mirjam Swanson, The Orange County Register (ocregister.com), 26 Jan. 2020
Remembering Black Mamba: World reflects after Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna, 7 others killed in helicopter crash
— (headline) KFOR (kfor.com), 26 Jan. 2020
Legend, which comes from the Latin legere (“to gather, select, read”) initially meant “a story coming down from the past” when it entered English in the 14th century. The word has taken on a variety of additional meanings over the centuries, including the one most apt for Bryant “a person or thing that inspires legends.”
Legacy may likewise be defined in multiple ways; the sense referenced in the tributes to Bryant is “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”
Mamba is a reference to Bryant’s nickname Black Mamba; the mamba is “any of several chiefly arboreal venomous green or black elapid snakes (genus Dendroaspis) of sub-Saharan Africa.” The word came into English in the early 19th century from the Zulu imamba.
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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