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Fisk: The word that's all the rage at Dictionary.com

Commentary: After the National Rifle Association posts an incendiary video to Twitter, one word from it fascinates many.

2 min read

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

A still from the video that led to online education.

A still from the video that led to online education.

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The internet has given the world an opportunity to instantly educate itself.

August organizations such as Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com have cemented their website and Twitter presences and are there to help people learn new words. And to put words that emerge from web life into their dictionaries. 

The word sheeple, for example.

On Friday, however, one word moved many to run to Dictionary.com. It was the word fisk.

This verb emerged from a video the National Rifle Association posted to its Twitter account Thursday. 

The clip featured somewhat rightist personality Dana Loesch promising, among other things, that she and the NRA would fisk The New York Times. 

It took awhile to determine whether the word was fisk at all. Many heard a T rather than a K at the end. This was an understandable mishearing, as the hashtag that accompanied the NRA video was #ClenchedFistForTruth. 

Still, by Friday afternoon Dictionary.com reported on Twitter that fisk was its top search. 

Indeed, the trend toward fisk-enlightenment was considerable. "Searches for Fisk were up 7,643 percent week-over-week as of Friday afternoon," Lauren Sliter, marketing manager for Dictionary.com told me.

Oddly, Loesch's use of the word isn't actually Dictionary.com's first definition. That would be a reference to James Fisk, a 19th century American stock speculator, aka robber baron, sometimes referred to as "Diamond Jim." 

Loesch's use was, according to Dictionary.com, slang, meaning "to refute or criticize (a journalistic article or blog) point by point."

The NRA video was itself subjected to some criticism. Here's a sample, offered by commenter John Spartan: "I used to be a member of the NRA and shoot at the range in Fairfax. No more. You guys make normal gun owners look nuts with this rhetoric."

The web too -- especially sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit -- gets criticized, for the way it can foment unpleasantness so swiftly. 

Some might find this video an example of this, though it's really just a marketing exercise. Gun sales have dropped since President Donald Trump acceded to the presidency. 

I prefer to marvel at the number of people who, thanks to the NRA and Dictionary.com, have learned a new word. 

In bars all over America, people will turn to their friends over a large beer and say: "Let me just fisk your argument for a moment." 

Just imagine how much better they'll feel about themselves.

Updated Aug. 6 at 9:30 a.m. PT: To add comment from Dictionary.com.