Words of the Week - June 17

Dictionary lookups from Congress, the financial market, and the world of entertainment
picture of bull

Is this bull thinking about the market, or something else?


Inebriated was among our top lookups this last week, after the former mayor of New York City was described, in Congressional testimony about the January 6th insurrection, as having been quite drunk on election day in 2020.

Rather than believe the people who ran his campaign and wanted him to wait for the votes to be counted, Trump turned instead to the ravings of Rudy Giuliani, who was "apparently inebriated" on election night, per an opening statement from Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the vice chairwoman of the committee.
— Zachary B. Wolf, CNN, 13 Jun. 2022

We define inebriated as “exhilarated or confused by or as if by alcohol.” People who are described as inebriated are often under the influence of alcohol, but also may be intoxicated in a figurative manner. If inebriated isn’t your cup of tea there are a large number of other words in English to refer to someone being drunk; a few of them may be found here.


Another word that trended in lookups from the Congressional hearings was bullshit, after the former Attorney General used the word in describing how he had responded to Donald Trump’s claims of electoral fraud.

Bill Barr Calls “Bullshit” on Trump’s Election Lies
— (headline) The New Yorker, 13 Jun. 2022

We define bullshit as “nonsense; especially: foolish insolent talk,” and note that it is usually vulgar. It forms an important part of a number of colorful phrases, such as bullshit one’s way (“to seek an advantage or to create a false impression by saying things that are not true”). This word has been used in a figurative manner, referring to something other than the excreta of a male bovine, for over a hundred years.

Smith was in there. He kept me in the room, told me, “I am going to bust your head because you put some bull shit in the papers.”
Conditions in the Copper Mines of Michigan; hearings before a subcommittee of the committee on mines and mining, 1914

’Bear market'

Turning our attention to a different animal, bear market was very much in the news last week, following reports that we were entering into this kind of financial climate.

As investors grow increasingly worried about inflation and higher interest rates, Wall Street has fallen into a bear market.
Al Jazeera, 14 Jun. 2022

A bear market is “a market in which securities or commodities are persistently declining in value,” and is often contrasted with a bull market (“a market in which securities or commodities are persistently rising in value“). Both bear and bull have been used to refer to financial markets since the middle of the 19th century.

There has been an increasing abundance of money in the Stock market, arising from the swelling deposits of the banks employed at call upon securities, and most of the stock houses have had money over. The Stock market has, consequently, been a “bull market”….
United States Economist (New York, NY), 22 Nov. 1857

Generally the prices are better, and there are now signs of a “bull” market—they may be as extravagant as have been the senseless “bear” speculations of the last three months.
United States Economist (New York, NY), 1 Aug. 1857

’Spaz’ & ‘Ableism’

The American singer Lizzo announced that she was changing the lyrics of a song, after a number of people pointed out that it contained a word that is widely considered offensive. Both the offensive word (spaz) and a word used to describe it (ableism) trended in lookups as a result.

For context, the original lyric that offended fans came from the song’s line, “Do you see this (expletive)? I’m a spazz,” with many claiming that “spaz” is an ableist slur.
— Edward Segarra, USA Today, 13 Jun. 2022

We define spaz as “one who is inept.” The word is considered offensive due to it being a shortening of the word spastic, the initial meanings of which were “characterized by hypertonic muscles” and “of, relating to, characterized by, or affected with or as if with spasm,” and is often used in reference to people with cerebral palsy. Ableism, in use since the early 1980s, is defined as “discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities.” If you would like a cutting word that is not based on a person’s physical condition or abilities, klutz is defined as “a clumsy person”; it comes from the Yiddish klots, which literally means “wooden beam.”


Juneteenth spiked in lookups, as it does in the week prior to June 19th every year.

Although almost every state recognizes Juneteenth in some fashion, many have been slow to do more than issue a proclamation or resolution, even as some continue to commemorate the Confederacy.
— Kimberlee Kruesi and Cheyanne Mumphrey, Associated Press, 15 Jun. 2022

Juneteenth is “June 19 celebrated especially in Texas to commemorate the belated announcement there of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865.” Our records indicate considerable and consistent use of the word ever since the late 19th century.

Last Wednesday the citizens of this city and vicinity, native Texans, assembled in the fair grounds to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the liberation of the bonded Afro-American of Texas … Closely following the speakers an animated game of base ball was witnessed; when the happy throng repaired to their homes expressing themselves as highly pleased with their first Juneteenth celebration.
— Parsons Weekly (Parsons, KY), 22 Jun. 1895

Sherman people celebrated the Juneteenth at the beautiful Fred Douglas school grounds and the handsome Wood Lake park pavilion, midway between Sherman and Denison, on the electric railway.
— Freeman (Indianapolis, IN), 27 Jun. 1908

June 19th, or, as it is humorously referred to, “Juneteenth,” is the day the news of the emancipation proclamation reached Texas, so annually the day is celebrated much as we do Fourth of July.
— Chicago Defender, 3 Jul. 1915

Words Worth Knowing: ‘Logomachist’

Our word worth knowing this week is logomachist, defined as “one given to arguing about words.” You may previously have described this person as a pedant, quibbler, or just as my annoying uncle; now you have a very specific word for that person who is themself so specific about words.