In a nutshell: how recent words of the year reflect our times

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about words of the year from various dictionaries for 2020 and 2021. The problem is that I was planning to write about several years of WOTY, but I been distracted by all the COVID-inspired words the folks at the Oxford Dictionary threw at us for 2020.

Now I intend to finish the job – kind of like when Mrs. Word Guy asks me when I’m going to do that project I’ve been putting off, and I assure her I’ll get there and I don’t. must be recalled every six months. So, without further ado, here are the words of the year for 2018 and 2019, which are mostly still relevant. Most.

Let’s start with the disparate words that lexicographers have chosen to represent the freewheeling year 2018. The Oxford dictionary has made “toxic” their word of the year. It comes from the Latin “poisoned” or “poisoned”.

Merriam-Webster found the name “justice” to be the right word to represent the year. It is defined as “the upholding or administration of what is just, especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the conferring of merited rewards or punishments”.

Dictionary.com’s editors opted for “disinformation” or “spread false information, whether or not there is intent to mislead.” (Disinformation, on the other hand, is defined as “intentionally spread misinformation.”)

The American Dialect Society selected “children’s shelter” (also “children’s facility” or “children’s camp”), which is a euphemism for government-run detention centers that housed the children of asylum seekers in the USA. /Mexican border. (In a parallel vote, the American Dialect Society’s sister organization, the American Name Society, elected “Jamal Khashoggi,” the slain Saudi journalist, as the name of the year for 2018.)

Two other dictionaries, Collins and Cambridge, chose words that commented on consumerism, ranging respectively from “single-use”, which “encompasses a global movement to end our addiction to disposables”, and “nomophobia”, or “a fear or concern”. the idea of ​​being without a mobile phone or not being able to use it.

In 2019, lexicographers showed their preference for personal pronouns and words related to the environment. Merriam-Webster went with “they”, which in this case was about the use of the pronoun as it refers to a single person whose gender is intentionally not revealed or whose gender identity is not binary.

The American Dialect Society selected “(my) pronouns” because of “its use as an introduction to sharing its set of personal pronouns”. The band also chose their 2015 word of the year, “they”, as their 2010-2019 word of the decade.

The Oxford Dictionary selected “climate emergency”, which is defined as “a situation in which urgent action is needed to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it”.

Similarly, Collins opted for the “climate strike” or the activity of “leaving work to demand action on climate change”, while the folks at the Cambridge Dictionary opted for the “upcycle”, which according to him, is “the activity of making new items out of old or used things.

Dictionary.com kind of summed it all up, choosing “existential” as the word of the year because it “captures a sense of struggle with the survival – literally and figuratively – of our planet, our loved ones, our lifestyles. “

If you want me to write about more words of the year, call me back in six months.

Lewiston’s Jim Witherell is a writer and lover of words whose works include ‘LL Bean: The Man and His Company’ and ‘Ed Muskie: Made in Maine’. He can be reached at [email protected]


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