After a blast of hurricane-force winds and power outages by the hundreds of thousands June 29, suddenly the word “derecho” entered the vocabulary of Washingtonians and potentially 1.83 billion English speakers all over the world.
On Tuesday, the Global Language Monitor, in its mid-year update of 2012’s trending words, announced “derecho” had burst into the top 10, ranking 7 among the most resonant words in the English language.
In its meteorological definition, a “derecho” is a widespread, long-lived, fast moving line of thunderstorms with damaging winds. In Spanish - the language the word originates from - it translates to “straight ahead.”
Derecho joins “obesogenic” and “Hen” as the other words sneaking into the Monitor’s 2012 trending words list since it named 12 candidate words at the end of 2011 .
“The new words are taken from an intensifying debate on obesity as a major societal health crisis [obesogenic], a ‘land Hurricane’ [derecho] that some link to global warming. and a move [Hen] sometimes viewed as political correctness to end gender distinction among pronouns,” said Paul JJ Payack, the president and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor.
The top three trending words mid-way through 2012 are China, Europe, and The Election.
Words that make the list must have a dominating footprint “wherever English is spoken” Payack said.
Once the derecho, a relatively rare storm, carved a 600 mile path of destruction from near Chicago to the mid-Atlantic coast, the term spread like wildfire.
“We check every database [including news media databases, Twitter, etc],” Payack said. “Derecho had an overwhelming number of citiations. That’s how a word gets to be trend-worthy.”
It’s not the first time a high-impact storm to strike Washington, D.C. has earned a spot in the Monitor’s top 10 list.
In 2010, Snowmaggedon - the historic snowstorm that paralyzed the region February 4-6 that year - ended the year ranked 7th on the list.
Payack said words that describe natural hazards and weather often score high in the rankings.
“Tsunami was a big word in 2005,” he said. “Since known around the world, weather phenomena have the ability to score higher than you might think.”
As it fades from memory, derecho’s current ranking of 7 may have a hard time holding before the Monitor issues its year-end list around December 1.
But Payack thinks it has a solid chance to stay listed in the top 20.
“Right now, it’s higher than Olympiad - that’s pretty remarkable,” Payack said. “It’s in good position right now.”