Trending: ‘gerrymander,’ ‘gerrymandering’

Lookups spiked 16,000% on June 27, 2019

Why are people looking up the words gerrymander and gerrymandering?

Gerrymander made its way around and between the rest of the words in the dictionary to be our top search term on June 27, 2019, after a Supreme Court decision on the matter.

The Supreme Court's decision on June 27 against opponents of partisan state voting maps was summed up by Chief Justice John Roberts's opinion: “We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts."

Both the noun gerrymandering and the verb gerrymander spiked in lookups.

The headline in the New York Times read:

Supreme Court Says Constitution Does Not Bar Partisan Gerrymandering

What do the words gerrymander and gerrymandering mean?

Gerrymandering means "the practice of dividing or arranging a territorial unit into election districts in a way that gives one political party an unfair advantage in elections."

Where do the words gerrymander and gerrymandering come from?

Gerrymander is a blend of the surname Gerry and salamander, the small amphibian creature with a long thin body and tiny legs.

In 1812, under the governorship of Elbridge Gerry, an election district in the northeast corner of Massachusetts was created that had a distinctly irregular outline (in order to benefit Gerry's political party). The district was said to look like a salamander, and by splicing the second half of this word with the governor's name a new political insult was born.

What is notable about the use of the words gerrymander and gerrymandering?

Although the word is normally pronounced with an initial soft G sound as /JERRY-man-der/, Governor Gerry's name was pronounced with a hard G sound.

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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