Maybe the Times Shouldn’t Have Made a List of All the Words They Use That People Don’t Understand

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Fifty more excuses for this one not to read the Times. Photo: Courtesy CBS News

In a funny little blog post, Philip Corbett went through the words that are most frequently clicked upon by users of nytimes.com in order to display their definitions. The top 50 include a handful of words that were used to refer to specific foreign items or concepts, like "Manichean" and "renminbi." But the vast majority of them are 50 cent words that, put together in one, make you wonder how dedicated the paper can be to getting information across clearly and succinctly to a wide variety of audiences. The list is basically a helpful handout to anyone who wants to accuse the Times of only serving overeducated, elitist types (and a private back-patting tool for exactly those people: "Ha! Imagine not knowing what a mirabile dictu is!"). Is it really surprising to the editors that over 400 people clicked to find the definition of "inchoate" each of the twenty times they've used it in the last six months? Maybe it's time to retire the term. And even we had to look up the word "jejune," which was used twice, once in a television review about fantasy baseball. (Note to our parents who shelled out many thousands of dollars for our degree in English: Sorry. It apparently wasn't enough.)

Most Frequently Looked-up Words on NYTimes.com, 2010 [NYT]