I'm about to state the obvious here: We use a whole lot of words. In fact, Dr. Louann Brizendine, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California--San Francisco, figures that, the average woman women uses about 20,000 of them a day. A typical man uses far fewer each day, but still upwards of 7,000. Heck, I’ve just blown through more than 50 of them and haven't even gotten to the point yet.

Here's the point. It might seem like a fool's errand to try and boil the essence of a year down to a word, or a handful of words. But it’s a fun exercise, and one we undertook on Boston Public Radio with the help of some callers and our friend Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam Webster, where they compile a list of top words each year.