Top search terms of 2005: A tale of two search engines

Search engines Lycos and Merriam-Webster tout their top 10 lists of searched terms. Compared to the rest of the world, what piques your curiosity?

It's that time of year -- time to pop the hoods on the various online search engines and see which words got the most mileage in 2005.

These lists offer a tiny window into the news and pop culture that defined the times. Lycos and Merriam-Webster each released their list of top online search terms for 2005, and the difference between the two is so striking, it's funny.

No. 10 Webster: The 10th most-sought-after term on Webster's site this year? "Inept." While there is no picture of former FEMA director Michael "you're doing a heckuva job" Brown to accompany the definition, it's likely the word gained a lot of search traction after Brown's much-maligned handling of Hurricane Katrina.

No. 10 Lycos: "Hurricane Katrina" -- lots of people apparently jumped online to learn more about the definitive disaster of 2005.

But that's where the similarities in these lists end. In fact, juxtaposing these lists offers the definition of "dichotomy."

No. 9 Webster: "Levee," as in "The levees in New Orleans couldn't handle the storm surge from Katrina."

No. 9 Lycos: "PlayStation," as in "Turn off the news will ya -- I want to test this new joystick on my PlayStation."

No. 8 Webster: "Conclave" -- no doubt this noun, which means "a private meeting or secret assembly" enjoyed a surge in search popularity around pope-pickin' time, as Roman Catholic cardinals secluded themselves at the Vatican to choose the late Pope John Paul II's successor.

No. 8 Lycos: "Pokemon" -- why are these things still around? What are they anyway? Didn't they go the way of the New Kids on the Block? Maybe people like me are actually searching for answers to questions like that.

No. 7 Webster: "Pandemic" -- uh-oh, the p word -- it's like epidemic, only meatier and scarier. No doubt the bird flu situation overseas made this word contagiously popular.

No. 7 Lycos: "WWE," which for all you A&E viewers, stands for "World Wrestling Entertainment." If TNT knows drama, these guys know testosterone (and smackdowns). Why would you need to search for WWE? Wouldn't it be easier to just type www.wwe.com into your browser window?

No. 6 Webster: "Tsunami" -- the disaster in Asia and Africa in the last days of 2004 has been in the news ever since, triggering an interest in the deadly power of the ocean.

No. 6 Lycos: "Jennifer Lopez" -- searchers in droves turned to the Internet to find out what happened to "Jenny from the Block" and her career. I have to admit, I was fooled by the rocks that she's got.

No. 5 Webster: "Insipid" -- as in "Why am I reading this insipid column?" I'm not sure why this word proved so popular this year. The "Dukes of Hazzard" remake might have something to do with it.

No. 5 Lycos: "Dragonball" -- more Anime action like Pokemon. Also comes in DragonBall Z. Should not be confused with "Dungeons and Dragonballs."

No. 4 Webster: "Filibuster" -- when this political F word came up on Capitol Hill during the Supreme Court nomination process, non-politicians evidently turned to the Internet to brush up on their civics terms.

No. 4 Lycos: "Poker" -- of course, this could be from kids misspelling Pokemon, but that's unlikely. With all the celebrity poker shows on TV and Texas Hold 'Em tournaments popping up all over the place, it's no wonder poker has garnered more interest than Jennifer Garner (she was No. 65). Kenny Rogers, if you're reading this, now's the time to digitally re-master "The Gambler" and put it on iTunes.

No. 3 Webster: "Contempt" -- probably arises from the "contempt of court" jailing of The New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

No. 3 Lycos: "Britney Spears" -- even though her musical output has waned, "Britwits" evidently are still "Crazy" about her (she actually moved up from No. 4 last year). Little Miss Thang spent enough time in the news this year, however, having a baby and staying married to whatshisface -- the guy who shaves as much as he works.

No. 2 Webster: "Refugee" -- are the people Hurricane Katrina forced out of their homes evacuees? Or refugees? Inquiring minds (with Internet connections) wanted to know.

No. 2 Lycos: "Pamela Anderson" -- the "Stacked" star is proof that you don't have to have any of your home movies stolen recently to stir up cyberspace. But of course, that doesn't hurt either.

No. 1 Webster: "Integrity" -- part of me thinks it's great that this word is on people's minds, especially when there appears to be such a lack of it in politics. Another part of me is sad that integrity is so rare nowadays that people have to look it up in a dictionary.

No. 1 Lycos: "Paris Hilton" -- unless Web surfers were looking to book a room at a hotel near the Arc de Triomphe, the young woman famous for being famous aroused more curiosity than anyone else, inching up from No. 2 last year to the top of the '05 heap. Now that's hot.

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