Word of the Year 2017

alex atkins bookshelf words“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language” wrote the poet T. S. Eliot, “and next year’s words await another voice.” To that observation, we can add: last’s year words also define the language, the conversations, or more accurately, the zeitgeist of the past year. Each year, editors of major dictionaries review the stats on their respective websites to spot dramatic spikes in word lookups to determine which words capture the interest of the public. They develop a list and then debate which one merits the distinction of “word of the year.”

For 2017 Word of the Year, the editors of Oxford Dictionaries selected youthquake. Youthquake is defined as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.” Surprisingly, the word is not new. It was coined back in 1965 by Diana Vreeland, then editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. The word is a portmanteau of youth and quake, based on the word earthquake. Words that made the shortlist included: antifa, broflake, gorpcore, kompromat, milkshake duck, newsjacking, unicorn, and white fragility.

For 2017 Word of the Year, the editors of Merriam-Webster selected feminism. Feminism is defined as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” Words that made the shortlist included: complicit, recuse, empathy, dotard, syzygy, gyro, federalism, hurricane, and gaffe.

For 2017 Word of the Year, the editors of Dictionary.com selected complicit. Complicit is defined as “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing.” And as the drama on the political stage unfolded this past year, we learned that as Arizona Senator Jeff Flake remarked, “silence can equal complicity” — a variation of the famous quote attributed to Irish political philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Or consider an even more dramatic quote attributed to Dante Alighieri, who wrote the famous epic poem The Inferno: “The hottest [or darkest] places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”

For 2017 Word of the Year, Bookshelf has selected Trumpian. Trumpian is defined as resembling the style, rhetoric, and philosophy of Donald Trump; a person who denies reality or verifiable facts and presents “alternative facts”; a pathological liar; a person who possesses some or all of the following traits: avaricious, belligerent, boastful, bombastic, capricious, demagogic, dictatorial, hypocritical, impulsive, intimidating, misogynistic, narcissistic, perfidious, petulant, pretentious, reckless, self-righteous, self-destructive, thin-skinned, undisciplined, untrustworthy, vain, and vengeful.

In choosing Trumpian as word of the year, there is no denying that President Donald Trump, through his incessant tweeting and the resulting news and social media coverage, has dominated the news throughout the year. Although Trump leaped onto the political stage only two years ago, there is something oddly familiar about him, as if he stepped out of a Dickens novel. Indeed, the man is so overwhelmingly Dickensian — a jumble of odd characteristics (the large frame with small hands, the jutting eyebrows, steely eyes, the pursed lips revealing clenched overbleached teeth, orange complexion, and the dramatic combover that turns into a golden jagged sail at the slightest breeze), idiosyncrasies, distinctive hand gestures, and cadence that provide great fodder for parody and ridicule by actors, comedians, editorial cartoonists, and pundits. And just like some of Dickens’ greatest characters (think Fagin, Scrooge, Havisham, Marley, Pickwick, Podsnap, and Uriah Heep), Trump, through his actions and words, has unwittingly defined his own word — Trumpian. The word will undoubtedly endure far longer than his rocky and controversial administration.

 

Read related posts:
How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
Words Related to Trump

For further reading: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/word-of-the-year/word-of-the-year-2017
https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/word-of-the-year-2017-feminism

 


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