There’s something innately funny about Merriam-Webster’s announcement, earlier this month, that “culture” is their 2014 Word of the Year. “Culture” is the “Scary Movie” of words of the year, which, ordinarily, are supposed to reflect culture (“vape,” “selfie”) without actually being “culture.” Merriam-Webster’s editors are at pains to clarify that they weren’t trying to be meta (which, incidentally, would’ve made a great word of the year back in 2000). The word “culture,” they explain, was simply the word that saw the biggest spike in look-ups on their Web site. Confusion about culture was just part of the culture this year. People were desperate to know what “culture” meant.
Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker — December 26, 2016