Shortlist of 2018’s top words quite puzzling

Saturday, December 1, 2018

How would you describe the current political environment?

How would you describe a personal relationship gone bad?

How about a deterioration in the earth’s environment?

The answer to all is “toxic.”

And by no coincidence, toxic is the Oxford Dictionary word of the year.

In a quick and highly unscientific review of these columns over the past year, I have used the word toxic a number of times. Most of those times involved the political polarization we’re currently under.

In fact, polarization should rank high on the word of the year list.

The selection of this annual word is actually based on fact. The Oxford folk monitor internet and newspaper verbiage and calculate increases in word usage.

Who knew?

I fancy myself somewhat of a wordsmith — although my friend Swanny puts me to shame.

So I was puzzled by the words that were on the Oxford shortlist and were narrowly edged out for this top honor.

The word “cakeism” was one of the runners-up. It stems from the expression “having your cake and eating it, too.” Primarily used in England — where Oxford is based — it’s a British expression that it is possible “to enjoy or take advantage of two desirable but mutually exclusive alternatives at once.”

Another runner up was “gammon,” again used primarily in England, which is a derogatory term for older white men.

Apparently there is a favorite British comfort food that contains a fleshy pink meat that resembles older white men flushed in anger.

I’ve never heard of or used this term and I don’t aim to start now!

And then there’s “gaslighting,” which is the “action of manipulating someone by psychological means into accepting a false depiction of reality or doubting their own sanity”.

To add even more confusion to this annual word list is the term “incel.”

To illustrate just how shallow my word usage is, the word “incel” refers to a member of an online community of young men who consider themselves unable to attract women.

It actually stands for “involuntary celibate” and, once again, I find myself completely clueless in this changing world.

Then there’s “orbiting” and “techlash” and “overtourism” and one final word I will not use in a family newspaper.

In short, the world of words has passed me by and I didn’t even notice. These top words may have passed you by as well.

I am somewhat surprised however that one word was omitted from the 2018 listing that I assumed would knock out the other competitors hands down.

Listen to CNN or MSNBC or any of the alphabet networks and you’ll agree.

That word is “impeachment.”

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: