Friday, January 20, 2012


Fifty-two words comprise the entirety of this book. In the context of the year 2011, these words contain far deeper meaning than their definitions can reveal, because these are the words that ranked among the most salient lemmas (root words and proper names) tracked by for the entire year. Utterment is a web-based computer application that quite simply tracks words that matter to us the most. In more formal language, Utterment provides frequent periodical analysis of trends among lemmas in the English language as they occur within a real-time corpus. The primary purpose of Utterment is to assist human beings discovering, reading, comprehending, and weighing in on the most important news of the moment. Secondarily, Utterment enables ongoing lexicographical research with its large and unique database of up-to-date English language data, including word frequencies, trends, and associated source metadata. Utterment’s corpus contains more than 200 news sources from which millions of pages of content are continually distilled to calculate salient rankings.

To create this book using Utterment's data resources, I first culled lemmas of the highest salient rank for each day of the year from among millions of words tracked over the course of the year. I then looked into the evidence of highly salient lemmas clustered around single newsworthy events in order to select only those lemmas whose evidence revealed the salient aspects of a news story in as few sentences as possible. Lastly, I edited the evidence for aptness and brevity. For word nerds, each of the 52 words spent at least one day near the top of the salient rankings, while the majority recorded high salient scores for more than a single day. Many words trended for weeks, a few for months.

The number 52 was selected arbitrarily, partly for its association with the number of weeks in a year, but far more importantly with the belief that anyone, even a child, could read a history book with just 52 words in it. PARENTS PLEASE NOTE: Not all news stories appearing among the evidence are suitable for children, so adults please read along with your child to answer their questions and make certain your child accesses articles that are appropriate to their age. It is my hope that this book will provide insight into the human experience of 2011 for many years to come, and engender an empathic response for readers of all ages as they search for insight into the human condition.

While I combed evidence to make sure the links to the original articles worked, if you find a broken link, please let me know by sending me a tweet (@jrome). In nearly all cases I selected only a tiny percentage of the evidence for a particular lemma, because an exhaustive list would have made for repetitive storytelling and ultimately dull reading.

Lastly, this book is dedicated to my wife Nikki. I would not have been able to see Utterment through without her unflinching and unparalleled support. Thanks also to Orion Buckminster MontoyaJohn Mansfield, and Mark Greene for their work in making Utterment a truly remarkable project. If you like this book, please visit to check out the latest daily salient lemma. History continues into tomorrow.


Jerome Haines
6 January 2012