| A woman with her child at an Internet cafe
Mumbai, Dec. 13: Some dangerous ideas are spreading like wildfire on the Web.
According to a list brought out by US-based dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, 'blog' is the top word of 2004.
The dictionary, which has compiled the list going by the number of online searches for words, says the other nine in descending order of popularity are incumbent, electoral, insurgent, hurricane, cicada, peloton, partisan, sovereignty and defenestration.
There are a few surprises in the runners-up list like 'peloton'. Merriam-Webster says the word stands for 'the main body of riders in a bicycle race'. But since there was no indication before that it was an object of mass fantasy, many are also baffled by its inclusion.
Most of the remaining words predictably refer to the event that consumed the world this year: the US elections. But the emergence of 'blog' at the top and 'defenestration' at number 10, point at the phenomenon that blogs, which are personal online journals often with links with like-minded journals or sites, have become. There's hope, if not for revolution, at least for democracy and free-thinking, even if they are restricted to virtual reality.
Blogs, which took root in the late nineties, really took off with the second Gulf War, which kicked off a flurry of opinions on the Web like never before. Now there are an estimated 4.8 million blogs, frequently bristling with not-so-favourable views on George W. Bush ' the most battered personality online ' and other establishments, and an overwhelming number of the postings are livid and unprintable. First catching the eye when they became the space to publish reports from Iraq that couldn't find place in the mainstream media, blogs also suggested that Bush uses a hearing aid to get help while in debates.
Merriam-Webster said 'blog' was the word that Net users have asked to be defined most over the year.
The word will now appear in the 2005 version of Merriam-Webster's printed dictionary, though it has already been included in some printed versions of the Oxford English Dictionary.
'Defenestration' goes well with blogs. It literally means throwing someone out of the window and is also said to be the preferred mode of Czechs in previous centuries to dispose of their rulers. But it is a favourite name for blogs and a favourite theme in them ' the entity that is being thrown out almost always being authority.
'Incumbent', 'electoral', 'insurgent', 'partisan', and 'sovereignty' refer to the battle between Bush and John Kerry in its various stages. Not for nothing is the US the hub of the Net, contributing the bulk of Netizens all over the world with their numbers estimated at more than 100 million. But did the word 'insurgent', defined by Merriam-Webster as 'a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially: a rebel not recognised as a belligerent', occur most in the context of Michael Moore and his Fahrenheit 9/11'
The word 'hurricane' was looked up often because of the threat of the natural phenomenon to the US, and 'cicadas' made an appearance because these insects, which are not harmful but are not welcome in the gardens of many, arrived in droves in several places in America this year.
The question then: is there a world outside America' There should be several blogs obsessing with that.