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Words of the Year 2022

Always a month of retrospection, December brought eagerly awaited strings of new words to the already vast vocabulary of accepted global English. Often expressing innovative concepts, sometimes loaded with political and cultural baggage, these annual wordlists are gifts treasured by multilingual wordsmiths.

Here’s a quick overview of the 2022 buzzword harvest:

GASLIGHTING: Selected by the U.S.’s Merriam-Webster as Word of the Year, gaslighting means “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one’s own advantage.” Taken from the title of a 1938 play and the related movie, this term reflects the actions of a man attempting to convince his wife she is going insane, by dimming the gas lights and then insisting that it is all in her imagination.

Over the past decade, its use has extended from the personal sphere (undermining emotional confidence and mental stability) to encompass the public arena, as a sneakier partner of deception, manipulation, and fake news.

Suitable for technical and colloquial writing, it’s a term more subtle than lying, and less criminal than fraud. In fact, gaslighting tiptoes along the fine line between legal and illegal, although certainly well on the dark side of ethical.

GOBLIN MODE was chosen by Oxford Dictionaries as its word of the Year through a first-time-ever public vote, defining “a type of behavior that is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” With an overwhelming 318,956 (93%) of more than 340,000 ballots, goblin mode obliterated its competitors: metaverse (14,484 votes) and #IStandWith (8,639 votes).

While the U.K.’s Collins Dictionary shortlist of Words of the Year included:

  • PERMACRISIS, which topped the list, identifying an extended period of instability and insecurity. This links to the addition of the preferred spelling (over the Russian variant) of the Ukrainian capital as Kyiv, in an important affirmation of national pride. Oddly enough, the mid-year rebranding of Turkey as Türkiye was ignored.
  • PARTYGATE was a relatively short-lived political scandal over well-catered ‘meetings’ that defied stringent social distancing constraints. Carolean was revived in September to describe anything related to Charles III, while warm banks describe heated public buildings where people can warm up when too poor to heat their own homes.
  • VIBE SHIFT defines a significant change in a predominant cultural trend, which was another Collins 2022 WotY choice, despite its 60s … uuh, vibe.
  • QUIET QUITTING means doing no more work than required by the job contract; however, the Collins list made no mention of quiet firing, which is when managers push underperforming employees out by not providing adequate coaching and career development.
  • SPORTSWASHING is the latest offspring of whitewashing, following in the purportedly virtuous footsteps of greenwashing, pinkwashing and veganwashing. A negative term, it means promoting wholesome events to distract attention from human rights violations and other abuses.

The Year That Left Even Dictionaries Speechless – 2020

As cultural milestones, the Oxford Languages Words of the Year reflect changes in contemporary societies. In 2019, climate emergency reflected global concerns, with an unsurprising vax in 2021.

However, 2020 was the year that left even the OED speechless, as new words flowed into its lexicon at an unparalleled pace. Its report featured some catchy new coinages, some of which still survive:

  • Blursday captures the way the week blends together when WFH during lockdown;
  • Covidiots were (are?) stubborn flouters of social distancing protocols, thus furthering the spread of COVID; the same word may be used to describe equally antisocial panic-buyers;
  • Doomscrolling/doomsurfing means obsessively seeking out negative news articles online, no matter how depressing, often without fact-checking sources;
  • Anthropause describes the sudden sharp reduction in human mobility through remote work and study, with outcomes that proved far from negative.

Words to Watch in 2023

Fashion and slang tend to skip along the same rapid pace, often with similar longevity. However, some manage to stay the course, while others fade away in a few months. For translations—which may be intended for readers even decades down the road—it’s important to know the difference.

So here are five relative newcomers that have become mainstream enough to add a contemporary note to almost any translated text:

  • Finfluencer: an influencer (often with dubious qualifications) who offers recommendations on investments.
  • Glow up: a brighter alternative for describing an upgrade or polish, particularly for consumer-facing texts.
  • G.O.A.T.: meaning the Greatest of All Time, this acronym is often applied to sports stars, extending easily into many other fields.
  • Squad: a more neutral equivalent of gang or followers, but more cohesive than a group or gaggle.
  • LGBTQIA+: adding even more letters to the original LGBT, the latest iteration of this acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual/aromantic/agender, with the plus sign including anyone inadvertently forgotten.

Takeaway: Inclusion and diversity are important in today’s business world, so the experienced translators at Trusted Translations always add the latest buzzwords to their glossaries.

Photo by Avi Agarwal on Unsplash