It’s been a tradition for me to write a column at the end of the year about various popular dictionaries’ words of the year for about as long as I’ve been a columnist.
This year has me feeling like I am completely out of touch with what is happening to our language in popular culture.
Let’s start on this side of the pond. Mirriam Webster’s word of the year is gaslighting. Of course, I am familiar with the word, which means to grossly mislead or manipulate other people for one’s own advantage.
I had no idea, though, that it had become so prominent. I certainly didn’t hear or see it used any more in 2022 than usual, but apparently, it was MW’s biggest lookup in 2022 with a 1,740 per cent increase over 2021.
“In this age of misinformation—of “fake news,” conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes—gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time,” the dictionary said.
An interesting aside, the origin of the word comes from the play Gas Light by British playwright Patrick Hamilton that debuted in 1938 in which a man tries to convince his wife she is going insane.
“His mysterious activities in the attic cause the house’s gas lights to dim, but he insists to his wife that the lights are not dimming and that she can’t trust her own perceptions,” MW explains.
Turning to the other side of the Atlantic, Cambridge Dictionary’s word for 2022 is homer, which really had me scratching my head.
I knew that Wordle is a very popular daily puzzle from the New York Times that millions of English speakers around the world, including what seems like a majority of my friends play every day.
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To think, though, the game could generate the word of the year for one of the world’s most authoritative English dictionaries is astounding.
Non-American English speakers were both stymied and angered by the Wordle homer, which, of course, anyone familiar baseball knows is the abbreviated form of home run.
The NYT is an equal opportunity offender, though, confusing and angering American English speakers when it used bloke as its Wordle of the day.
My search for a word of the year I could actually relate to, of course, took me to ostensibly the premier authority on the English language, Oxford, but to no avail.
None of the three shortlisted finalists made me feel any less out of touch.
They were metaverse, #IStandWith and goblin mode.
I mean, come on, #IStandWith is not even a word, it’s a hashtag coined to indicate a person is aligning their views with a person or cause.
And never, not once, had I heard the term goblin mode, meaning eschewing societal expectations in favour of doing what one wants.
For the first time ever, Oxford let the public pick its word of the year.
I had to vote for goblin mode (which was ultimately the winner), simply because that is what I am going into when it comes to all of these words of the year.
Perhaps my personal word of the year will be oblivious.