Lookups spiked 5,000% on October 7, 2020
Smarmy smiled unctuously and bribed its way to the top of our lookups on October 7, 2020, helped along by a mention on Twitter by pundit Bill Kristol.
Trump is horribly offensive. But I have to say that Pence’s cloying smarminess is impressively nauseating in its own way.— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) October 8, 2020
We offer two definitions for smarmy: “revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, or false earnestness,” and “of low sleazy taste or quality.”
Smarmy was preceded by the verb smarm, which appeared in English in the mid-19th century. We don't know where smarm came from, but we do know that it meant "to smear," "to gush," or sometimes "to make smooth or oily." A few decades later, the use of smarm was extended to sometimes mean "to use flattery." The adjective smarmy appeared in the early 20th century. The adverb form of the word is smarmily, and the noun form, as used by Kristol, is smarminess.
She’d soon see what it was like, the transformation of smarmy, oily-complimentary Morris into Morris in a rage, breaking the furniture, calling his wife the names of loathsome animals, and finally striking her so that the marks could still be seen upon her cheek.
— Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, PA), 2 Jul. 1923
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.