50 words that stump New York Times readers

In this week's New York Times After Deadline post, which is the Times' weekly "notes from the newsroom on grammar, usage and style," they examine the 50 most-searched-for words used in Times stories, based on its awesome double click on a word to get a definition feature. The actual list is a PDF file. It's pretty interesting, as is the commentary in After Deadline.

The list has stats on total searches and searches per use. The most-searched-for overall was  inchoate  (AHD: 1. In an initial or early stage; incipient. 2. Imperfectly formed or developed).  The most-searched-for term per use was Baldenfreude, which was a made-up word in a Maureen Dowd column.

I went through the list, and there are 24 that I could readily define. Not bad, I guess.

After Deadline concludes:

Even the most studious readers are likely to stumble over at least some of these words. I don’t suggest banning any of them — in some cases they may be the perfect choice, and we refuse to talk down to readers or dumb down our prose.

Still, we should remember that this is journalism, not philology. Our readers, smart as they are, are often in a hurry. They may be standing on the subway or skimming a story over breakfast. Let’s not make them work any harder than necessary.

Check it out. How does your vocabulary stack up?