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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Lookups of 'Exhume' and 'Confluence' Spiked During the Oscars Ceremony

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

When Hollywood talks, people listen. Then they Google. Particularly when it comes to words they want to make sure they’re understanding correctly. During last night’s Academy Awards ceremony, there were a few words that left movie fans scratching their heads (or at least double-checking themselves). The logophiles at Dictionary.com kept an eye on which words were getting the most lookups last night, and it was the night’s two Best Actresses (Leading and Supporting) who got the most attention for their vocabulary.

“It’s fascinating to see what words pique our users’ interest during big events like the Academy Awards,” Dictionary.com marketing manager Lauren Sliter tells mental_floss. “Did the host use a word in a joke that was unfamiliar? What was that word used in an acceptance speech? Last night, acceptance speeches were a gold mine for trending words.”

In addition to the word “Oscar” itself, which saw a 510 percent increase in searches (a Dictionary.com blog post addressed the origin of the name), it was Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis and Best Actress Emma Stone who got people to turn away from their TVs and to their computer (or phone) screens.

Davis made history back in January when her nomination for Denzel Washington's Fences made her the first black actress to receive three Oscar nominations. And her win last night was even more monumental, as it makes her the first black actress to claim a Triple Crown victory (the industry term for an actor who wins a Tony, Emmy, and Academy Award—putting her a single Grammy away from an EGOT). In accepting the golden guy, Davis shared where she finds inspiration, telling the A-list crowd (and millions of viewers worldwide):

“You know, there is one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered and that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time—what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories—the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost. I became an artist and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”

The speech saw lookups of “exhume” spike by 274 percent.

When Stone, who was named Best Actress for La La Land, stepped onto the stage, she admitted that, “I realize that a moment like this is a huge confluence of luck and opportunity, and so I want to thank [La La Land director] Damien Chazelle for the opportunity to be part of a project that was so special and once in a lifetime.”

Dictionary.com gave Stone a Twitter shout-out for her win—and her vocabulary, which led to a 65 percent increase in searches of “confluence.”

Academy Award viewers learned the definition of the word “snafu” for themselves as an envelope mix-up with the night’s biggest award, Best Picture, saw the cast and crew of La La Land tearfully accept the award … only to have to hand it over to the makers of Moonlight, its rightful winners. Not even Hollywood would have thought to write an ending like that.

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Here's the Right Way to Pronounce Kitchenware Brand Le Creuset

If you were never quite sure how to pronounce the name of beloved French kitchenware brand Le Creuset, don't fret: For the longest time, southern chef, author, and PBS personality Vivian Howard wasn't sure either.

In this video from Le Creuset, shared by Food & Wine, Howard prepares to sear some meat in her bright orange Le Creuset pot and explains, "For the longest time I had such a crush on them but I could never verbalize it because I didn’t know how to say it and I was so afraid of sounding like a big old redneck." Listen closely as she demonstrates the official, Le Creuset-endorsed pronunciation at 0:51.

Le Creuset is known for its colorful, cast-iron cookware, which is revered by pro chefs and home cooks everywhere. The company first introduced their durable pots to the world in 1925. Especially popular are their Dutch ovens, which are thick cast-iron pots that have been around since the 18th century and are used for slow-cooking dishes like roasts, stews, and casseroles.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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The Early 20th Century Society That Tried to Make English Spelling More Intuitive
George Bernard Shaw, a member of the Simplified Spelling Soesiety
George Bernard Shaw, a member of the Simplified Spelling Soesiety
Fox Photos/Getty Images

The English language is notorious for complex spelling rules—and the many words that break them. We all know i comes before e, except, of course, in certain weird words like, well, weird. We pronounce the letter i like eye if the word ends in an e—except in words like give. Unsurprisingly, even native English speakers get fed up with the inanity of the language’s complicated spelling conventions, and there have been several pushes to replace them with something a little more intuitive over the centuries, as The Public Domain Review highlights.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the London-based Simplified Speling Soesiety was one of the groups pushing for a more logical system of English spelling. Its journal, first published in 1912, refers to standard English spelling as "in sum waiz unreezonabl and retrograid.” So the group went about coming up with new ways to spell common words itself, hoping its alternate approach would catch on.

The Pioneer ov Simplified Speling contained a pronunciation guide, but many of its alternative spellings can be deciphered fairly easily. As long as you peruse carefully, that is. Reading through the publication feels like stumbling through an archaic text from hundreds of years ago, rather than something written during the 20th century.

A pronunciation guide from the 'Pioneer of Simplified Speling'
The Pioneer of Simplified Speling

Go ahead and wade into how the group, founded in 1908, explained its mission in the first edition of The Pioneer:

The aim ov the Soesiety nou iz tu plais befor the public cleer staitments ov the cais against the curent speling, tu sho hou seerius ar the consecwensez ov yuezing it, and hou much wood be gaind, if sum such sceem az that ov the Soesiety wer adopted.

Did you get all that?

The debut edition of the quirky journal, which you can read on the Internet Archive, includes not just the group’s mission statement and goals, but birthday congratulations to the Society’s founding president, aggregated updates about spelling in the news (like that in an interview, British chemist Sir William Ramsay mentioned a German child never making a spelling mistake), the announcement of the group’s annual meeting (at which members would submit new simplified spellings for discussion), and other minor spelling-related notes.

The whole thing is truly a treasure.

Fed-up readers and writers have been trying to wrangle English spelling conventions into something more manageable for essentially as long as there have been standardized spellings. Benjamin Franklin was a spelling reformer during his lifetime, as was Theodore Roosevelt. Soesiety member George Bernard Shaw went so far as to leave his estate in a trust dedicated to reforming the English alphabet when he died.

Though the spelling reformers of yore didn't find much mainstream acceptance for their ideas, there are still modern orthography obsessives who want to revamp the English spelling system to make it easier to learn. And they have a point: For English-speaking children, learning to read and write takes years longer than it does for kids learning to read in languages with easier spelling rules, like Finnish. Considering that one study of 7000 different English words found that 60 percent of them had irregularly used letters, it’s a wonder any of us English speakers have learned to read at all. If only the Simplified Speling Soesiety had gotten its way back in the early 1900s, maybe we would have an easier time of it.

[h/t The Public Domain Review]

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