In a Tuesday tweet, Merriam-Webster announced that "fascism" was the site's No. 1 lookup for 2016, putting it on track to become the dictionary's Word of the Year. You can combat "fascism" by looking up "flummadiddle" instead, and you should absolutely encourage your friends to join you.
"Fascism" is a word that lots of people throw around, but few can accurately define. Historically, it was the unique name given to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's brand of government, and many have not hesitated to label Mussolini's most infamous ally, Adolf Hitler, a fascist as well. Lately, commentators on both sides of the political aisle have questioned whether President-elect Donald Trump might be a fascist himself.
The major problem with labeling Trump, or anyone else, as a fascist is that most people don't understand what, exactly, fascism is. Now, don't go look up the word on Merriam-Webster; that's what we're trying to avoid. We'll look to an expert for the answer.
In his 2003 book, The Anatomy of Fascism, historian Robert O. Paxton writes:
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.
Only time will tell whether we see the rise of fascism in the U.S. during Trump's presidency, and we can only hope that we are all prepared to fight for what's right if and when it becomes necessary. But we do have it in our power to prevent "fascism" from becoming Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year.
After being accused of penning "the most desperate-sound tweet by a dictionary possibly ever," Merriam-Webster's social media team shot back: "No, 'What if everyone committed to looking up "flummadiddle" twice a day?' is the most desperate-sounding tweet." That message sparked an uptick in lookups for "flummadiddle," and the word — which means "something foolish or worthless" — has become the go-to for combating the dominance of "fascism" on Merriam-Webster's search index.
But hey, maybe you think this campaign to combat fascism is all just flummadiddle. After all, what Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year was in 2016 won't really matter by the time we get to 2020, will it?
In his Nov. 9 New Yorker piece, David Remnick writes, "Fascism is not our future — it cannot be; we cannot allow it to be so — but this is surely the way fascism can begin." He's writing about more important things than the Word of the Year, but the message is clear: fascism wins when we become complacent.
This year has been absolute hell for many, many people in the U.S. and abroad. We deserve a little flummadiddle to take our minds off of all the terrible things going on in the world, and determining Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year is a change we can create on our own, without lobbying Congress and the U.N.
So look up "flummadiddle" on Merriam-Webster's website as many times a day as you can manage. We can combat "fascism," even if it's just a word.