Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries have both announced their word of the year for 2022
Oxford Word of the Year for 2022
The Oxford Word of the Year for 2022 is Goblin mode– a slang term, often used in the expressions in goblin mode or to go goblin mode. This term refers to ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.’
Oxford offers the following comment: ‘Although first seen on Twitter in 2009, goblin mode went viral on social media in February 2022, quickly making its way into newspapers and magazines after being tweeted in a mocked-up headline. The term then rose in popularity over the months following as Covid lockdown restrictions eased in many countries and people ventured out of their homes more regularly. Seemingly, it captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to ‘normal life’, or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media.’
The final stage of Oxford’s selection process was a public vote on 3 short-listed words (or phrases), with ‘more than 300,000 people’ voting. The announcement doesn’t say whether the public vote determined the final order of the 3 candidates. In 2nd place came metaverse. 3rd came #IStandWith.
For the definitions of these terms, please see https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/11/vote-for-oxford-word-of-2022/
Is it a word?
I don’t want to be too picky, but goblin mode is a 2-word phrase or expression. I find it hard to imagine anyone treating it as a single word in English—though in German, for example, I suspect it would be a single word. Still, the following description does say the Oxford Word of the Year ‘is a word or expression’.
The Oxford Word of the Year is ‘a word or expression reflecting the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months, one that has potential as a term of lasting cultural significance. Supported by evidence of real language usage, Oxford’s editors track candidates as they emerge throughout the year, analyzing frequency statistics and other language data in the Oxford English Corpus. Previous words have included vax (2021), climate emergency (2019), and selfie (2013).’
Cambridge Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2022
Cambridge Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2022 is homer. https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/cambridge-dictionary-names-homer-word-of-the-year-2022 The dictionary defines it as ‘[US informal] short for home run: a point scored in baseball when you hit the ball, usually out of the playing field, and are able to run around all the bases at one time to the starting base’. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/homer
Homer was the dictionary’s highest-spiking word of the year. It was viewed more than 79,000 times this year. 65,401 of those views happened on 5 May—when it was an answer in the online five-letter word game Wordle. 95% of the searches for homer were from outside North America. For more on Wordle, please see https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/02/wordle/
Wordle led to bursts of searches in 2022 for many five-letter words on the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘the world’s most popular online dictionary by page views’. The second highest spike came from the American spelling of humor. In third place was caulk, ‘a word more familiar in American English than in British English, meaning to fill the spaces around the edge of something, for example a bath or window frame, with a special substance’. Other spikes of interest were for the 5-letter words tacit and bayou.
Spikes for American words and spellings such as homer, humor, and favor happened because British players of Wordle led social media storms. But it wasn’t all one way. A noticeable spike also occurred in February when the British word bloke was a Wordle answer, prompting annoyance by some American players.
Other popular searches in 2022 were for words featuring in topical news stories, including oligarch and ableist.
Additions to the dictionary
Additions to the Cambridge Dictionary this year have included shrinkflation, defined as ‘the situation when the price of a product stays the same but its size gets smaller’.
More on homer
An editorial on the Dictionary’s website notes that:
- in British English texts, Homer normally refers to the Greek poet, either directly or in the idiom even Homer sometimes nods.
- in Scotland, homer means a job that a skilled worker does for a private customer in the customer’s home.
- the most common homer in the Cambridge English Corpus is Homer Simpson
Words of past years
Cambridge Dictionary Words of the Year in past years were:
- 2021: perseverance
- 2020: quarantine
- 2019: upcycling
- 2018: nomophobia
- 2017: populism
- 2016: paranoid
- 2015: austerity
To see Oxford and Collins Words for recent years, please see https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/11/collins-words-of-2022