The Words of the Week - June 14

Dictionary lookups from cricket, basketball, and politics


Guillotine had a sharp increase in lookups last week, after the word was featured prominently in a fundraising email sent out by Donald Trump.

In a campaign email Wednesday, former President Trump continued his post-conviction threats of revenge against his enemies by sharing the message “Haul out the Guillotine!”
— Lauren Irwin, The Hill, 13 June 2024

A guillotine is “a machine for beheading by means of a heavy blade that slides down in vertical guides.” The word has an odd history, insofar as it is eponymous (that is to say, it is named after a person), yet the person after whom it is named was not its creator. The device was named after Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a physician and member of the National Assembly, who passed a law stipulating that all executions should be carried out by means of a machine (to ensure a painless death). This law was passed in 1789, but the guillotine that separated so many heads from their necks during the French Revolution itself was not invented until 1792, by the surgeon and physiologist Antoine Louis.


Cricket, referring to the game, rather than the insect, has also been high in lookups in recent weeks, a result of the United States team performing better in this sport than they had been expected to.

USA falls to India in T20 Cricket World Cup after landmark win over Pakistan, but moves 1 step closer to history
— (headline) Yahoo Sports, 12 June 2024

Cricket is “a game played with a ball and bat by two sides of usually 11 players each on a large field centering upon two wickets each defended by a batsman.” The word for the game is etymologically unrelated to the word for the insect; the former comes from the Middle French criquet (“a goal stake in a bowling game”), and the latter from the Middle English criket, a word ultimately thought to be of imitative origin.


Standing spiked as well last week, after the Supreme Court based a ruling on this.

Abortion Ruling Has Nothing to Do With the Pills’ Safety or Morality - The opinion in the case focused entirely on standing, the legal doctrine that requires plaintiffs to show that they have suffered direct and concrete injuries in order to sue.
— (headline) The New York Times, 12 June 2024

When used in a legal sense standing can be defined as either “the status of being qualified to assert or enforce legal rights or duties in a judicial forum because one has a sufficient and protectable interest in the outcome of a justiciable controversy and usually has suffered or is threatened with actual injury” or “a principle requiring that a party have standing in order to justify the exercise of the court's remedial powers.”


Jerry West, a famed and influential figure in the world of basketball, passed away last week, and mentions of the word logo spiked as a result. West’s silhouette formed the NBA’s logo, and the word served (along with Mr. Clutch) as one of his nicknames.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver finally says that Jerry West inspired the league's logo
— (headline) CBS, 13 June 2024

Logo, as used here, is “an identifying symbol (as for use in advertising).” The word is a shortening of logotype, “a single piece of type or a single plate faced with a term (such as the name of a newspaper or a trademark).” Both come from the Greek logos (“word, reason, speech”), a root shared with logorrhea (“excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness”) and misology (“a dislike, distrust, or hatred of argument, reasoning, or enlightenment”).

Words Worth Knowing: ‘Eye-servant’

Our word worth knowing this week is eye-servant, defined as “one that attends to duty only when watched.” We label this as archaic, because it is little used in recent years, but we also must acknowledge that the practice of being an eye-servant is just as common today as it was several hundred years ago. Some things just never go out of style.