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"Science" named Word of the Year

NEW YORK (AP) Look alive, selfie. Theres another word of the year thats not all about you.

While Oxford University Press, the British publisher of the Oxford dictionaries, declared those little smartphone self-portraits its winner last month, the folks at Merriam-Webster announced science on Tuesday.

Oxford tracked a huge jump in overall usage of selfie, but Merriam-Webster stuck primarily to look-ups on its website, recording a 176 percent increase for science when compared with last year.

The more we thought about it, the righter it seemed in that it does lurk behind a lot of big stories that we as a society are grappling with, whether its climate change or environmental regulation or whats in our textbooks, said John Morse, president and publisher of Merriam-Webster Inc., based in Springfield, Mass.

Science, he said, is connected to broad cultural oppositions science versus faith, for instance along with the power of observation and intuition, reason and ideology, evidence and tradition. Of particular note, to Merriam-Webster, anyway, is fallout from the October release of Malcolm Gladwells latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

Gladwell, a popularizer of scientific thought and research in best-sellers and The New Yorker magazine, takes on the challenges of obstacles and the nature of disabilities and setbacks in the book. But he leaves science itself according to some critics as a rhetorical device for his main mission of storytelling.

The tweets, blog posts and online commentary about the book yay and nay proliferated as Gladwell hit the road to promote it. Peter Sokolowski, a lexicographer and editor at large for Merriam-Webster, called the Gladwell dustup a symptom of where science stands today.

With the explosion of information and technology, are we all scientists?

You have scientists writing long pieces, purportedly reviews of his new book, basically criticizing him, and then his response is: Hey, buddy. Im not a scientist. Im a writer whos trying to promote the work of scientists. To contextualize it. To make it accessible. You know, Dont blame me for not being a scientist is basically his response, Sokolowski said.

Jason Silva is neither scientist nor academic. Hes a techno optimist, filmmaker, performance philosopher and host of the popular Brain Games show on the National Geographic Channel.

 
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