“Culture” Is the Word of The Year, But What Does That Mean For Us?

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (When I hear the world culture, I take out my checkbook) (1985) Image via Art21

Nope, it’s not “selfie” or “twerk.” According to Merriam-Webster, the word of the year is “culture.”

The LA Times reports that the annual word of the year announcement is made on the grounds of both the number of online searches for a given word and how steadily that number increased from the year before.

This year, the idea of culture, which Merriam-Webster defines as either the “beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time” or “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business),” is apparently of interest to a lot of people.

The company admitted that while it is always a regularly searched word during back-to-school time, this year, lookups for extended beyond the academic calendar, which was part of the reason for selecting it as the word of 2014.

Does it represent 2014? Thanks in part to celebrity collectors like Jay Z and Beyoncé, celebrity artists like Jeff Koons, and wannabe artists like James Franco and Miley Cyrus, the new mainstream interest in the art world is certainly an indicator that perhaps it does. While culture obviously refers to more than just art, the increased interest in fine art can be read as a symptom of an increased interest in culture as a whole.

Perhaps the art world ought to embrace this new level of interest, because it looks like it’s our year, whether we like it or not. After all, last year’s word was “science.” Which would you rather have?

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