As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time for the major dictionaries to announce their annual Words of The Year (WOTY). So far three words have been revealed, with more expected to come from American dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster in December, and the Australian WOTY for 2018 will be announced in the new year.
It’s not surprising that the words that get chosen (either by vote, or by being the most searched-for terms reported by the dictionaries) reflect the zeitgeist. It’s interesting to see which words sum up our collective experiences of the past twelve months.
First to announce their WOTY for 2018 was Collins Dictionary with single-use, a term they say:
Single-use refers to products – often plastic – that are ‘made to be used once only’ before disposal. Images of plastic adrift in the most distant oceans, such as straws, bottles, and bags have led to a global campaign to reduce their use.
The dictionary reports single-use has ‘seen a four-fold increase since 2013, with news stories and images such as those seen in the BBC’s Blue Planet II steeply raising public awareness of the issue.’
Other words included in Collins’ shortlist for their WOTY 2018 included:
- Backstop (Brexit)
- Floss (dance craze)
- Gammon (reactionary white older men)
- Gaslight (manipulation of a person with false information)
- MeToo (cultural movement to expose sexual harrassment)
- Plogging (picking up litter while jogging)
- VAR (video assistant referee – football)
- Vegan (person who doesn’t eat or use any animal product)
- Whitewash (using white acotrs to play characters of other ethnicities).
Next to announce their WOTY for 2018 was Oxford Dictionaries with toxic. They reported a 45% rise in the number of times the word toxic was looked up on oxforddictionaries.com during 2018 and also noted that it had been in a wide range of different contexts – see video below.
Oxford Dictionaries’ shortlist for WOTY 2018 included:
- Incel (short for involuntarily celibate)
- Techlash (negative reaction to the influence of Silicon Valley tech companies)
- Big Dick Energy (understated confidence)
- Cakeism (Brexit – Britain could both have its cake and eat it)
- Overtourism (when too many tourists damage popular destinations)
- Orbiting (when someone stops communicating directly but still engages on social media).
The third WOTY 2018 was revealed by dictionary.com to be misinformation, which it defines as:
false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.
With information spread so rapidly and widely via the internet we all need to be much more critical in our reading and viewing habits. Misinformation is the perfect word to define 2018.
The politics of Brexit here in the UK and the style of the Trump presidency in the USA are both characterised by misinformation and disinformation – and we need to be aware of the difference. As dictionary.com states:
the difference between misinformation and disinformation comes down to intent.
Runners-up on dictionary.com’s 2018 WOTY shortlist included:
- Representation (as in black and Asian characters in films)
- Self-made (as in ‘self-made’ billionaire)
So far we have single-use, toxic, and misinformation as WOTY 2018. I’ll be very surprised if the other WOTY don’t also reflect our current turbulent times.