People are searching Merriam Webster for these five words, after each was used in reference to the 2016 election. Can you guess which candidate each referred to? (Sarah Parnass,Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

People who are inherently optimistic -- you know, the ones who secretly make us all roll our eyes -- are always reminding us that there are many ways to look at the same set of events, the same facts and arrive at very different conclusions.

And, perhaps that's exactly what should be said about the following list, pulled Wednesday from Merriam-Webster.com's list of its top trending words -- or, more accurately, top trending word look-ups.



Did you notice the theme? Americans may have retained little from those cram sessions before sitting for the SAT. But, by golly, it seems we are interested in the world around us -- current events and politics, in particular.

President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland, a summa cum laude Harvard University graduate and magna cum laude product of the Harvard University Law School, apparently prompted many people to visit the online dictionary for a refresher on that first term of academic distinction.

Julius Caesar, dictator for life of ancient Rome, met his violent fate at the hands of a group of Roman senators. In Shakespeare's later and widely read telling Caesar had, of course, been warned that dire events would occur on "The Ides of March." The term has since been applied to American politics regularly, including the name of a 2011 movie starring George Clooney as a presidential candidate. Now, it is regularly used by the media in reference to the current crop of dozens of March primaries.

Capture3

In the last two weeks, there have been a disturbingly ample number of reasons to examine and use the word "puerile" if you write, read or talk about presidential politics. And, well, the images beside the terms "purportedly" and "trumpery" up above really more than speak for themselves. If you take a look at the full list of trending look-ups, you will also find that words like "disavow," "repose," "pundit," "tycoon," "abhorrent" and "litmus test" have recently been matters of great public interest too. If you don't know why, I'll suggest as my father always did during my childhood, that you visit the dictionary.

So, while America may not know the terms "juggernaut" and "oleaginous" -- the latter which appeared in a recent David Brooks column about Sen. Ted Cruz titled "It's Not Too Late!" -- well at least a lot of people decided to look them up. Because they are paying attention.

The nation's intellectual glass may indeed remain half-full.