I am a word nerd. There. I’ve said it. Out loud. And I’m not a technical word nerd. I don’t know the origin and I can’t break it down by its root or any other grammatical posit. It’s the words. A new one, a funny one, a sexy one – you know the one that feels good when your mouth forms around it and it rolls off your tongue.
Okay, I did warn you – word nerd am I.
So along with channeling this into writing and NY Times Crossword Puzzle enthusiastic-ing (which defines as some days get filled in better than others), the various dictionaries picking their “word of the year” is always a fun moment.
Will it be a new word a la CHATBOT or UX, transporting us to a new world? Or maybe we’ll get an old-school word brought forward and modernized by new intent such as last year’s dictionary.com winner, IDENTITY.
Time Out for A Brief Moment of Critical Understanding Before Proceeding: Word of the Year is not about the coining of a new word. It is about a word each publisher believes best encapsulates our past year.
So with that in mind, I as the chosen words begin to be announced. The first one I espy is the winner from the Oxford Dictionary, drumroll please, POST-TRUTH.
Hmmm. Not exactly sure, so I look it up. POST-TRUTH is an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.
Wow. It’s an interesting concept, I guess. We no longer need to worry about truth vs. untruth (aka lie). Apparently we are now living in a “Post-Truth” world. Makes the 2006 Merriam-Webster pick TRUTHINESS feel dated.
And so with Oxford’s announcement, the dictionarial floodgates are flung open and the deluge begins.
The winner from Dictionary.com is XENOPHOBIA. Defined as the fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.” From Cambridge Dictionary we get PARANOID and the most “looked up word” from Merriam-Webster for 2016 is FASCISM.
And I don’t know about you, but I read them and then sat here, stunned and sad. It seems all the winning words of our past year are angry and aggressive and hurtful and spiteful and mean.
And contrary to the old children’s rhyme “names will never hurt me”, words do hurt and words do matter and although the rhyme is a plea to rise above them, the words always find their mark.
But the Word of the Year isn’t just about a single word.
It is about a reflection of us.
And that’s why these words should not roll off our tongues, but rather get stuck in our throats and break all our hearts.
For it is truly a sad day to be a word nerd.
But tomorrow is another day! So after we finish choking down this list, rather than regurgitating, let’s change our conversation. Let’s rally around 2017 and make the short list include PULCHRITUDE, EBULLIENT and maybe wind up with WARM FUZZIES to be thankful for.