The word of the year switches to goblin mode

A year ago, the lexicographical grandees of Oxford Languages ​​dutifully stretched out their arms and voted “vax” as the 2021 word of the year.

But this year the venerable editor of the Oxford English Dictionary – like the rest of us it seems – has gone leprechaun mode.

“Goblin mode” — a slang term that refers to “a type of behavior that is uncompromisingly smug, lazy, sloppy, or greedy, typically in a way that defies social norms or expectations” — became the 2022 word of the year appointed by Oxford.

Yes, you read it right. After a landslide online referendum, a joke that gained traction thanks to a satirical viral tweet involving an actress, a rapper and a rigged headline was named the One Word to Rule Them All of 2022.

“New words win out when they capture our imagination or fill in a gap with a word for a concept we need to express,” said Katherine Connor Martin, product director at Oxford Languages, in a phone interview. “What ‘goblin mode’ tells me is that it reflects the feeling that the pandemic is over, but we’re still dealing with it. Do we want to return to the notions of seriousness in the world before the pandemic?”

That word of the year is based on where-used lists from Oxford’s constantly updated corpus of more than 19 billion words drawn from news sources around the English-speaking world. The selection, according to Oxford, is intended to “reflect the ethos, mood or pursuits of the previous year” while having “potential as a concept of enduring cultural significance”.

Usually, Oxford’s lexicographers compile a list of words that showed a statistically significant increase and then choose one. This year, they took a more populist approach, announcing a short list of three — “Goblin Mode,” “#IStandWith,” and “Metaverse” — then throwing them into a two-week online public vote.

“Having a group of people in Oxford has always felt oddly undemocratic,” Martin said. “And this year, when people are talking about democracy as a thing that could be threatened, it didn’t feel like the right approach.”

The inclusion of “Goblin Mode” caused some consternation when Not Very Online was leaked to Google. But for some, it was the clear winner — or at least the lesser of three evils.

in one passionate appealwebsite PC Gamer urged people to “put aside our petty disagreements and vote for ‘Goblin Mode,'” if only to unite the milquetoast-y “#IStandWith” and the downright evil “Metaverse.” to thwart the calculation.

“Vote to take care of yourself and take pleasure in rejecting society’s suffocating norms,” ​​the website urged. Because “the metaverse that CEOs are trying to sell you is terrible.”

The internet obeyed, delivering a whopping 93 percent of the more than 340,000 votes cast for “goblin mode.” Second was “Metaverse” with 4 percent.

The exact origins of “Goblin Mode” are unclear. According to Oxford, it first appeared on Twitter back in 2009 but went viral last spring, thanks a satirical tweet with a fake news headline in which actress Julia Fox said she and Kanye West broke up because he didn’t like her “goblin mode.” (Fox later posted a disclaimer on Instagram Stories, saying, “Just for the record, I never used the phrase ‘goblin mode.'”)

The phrase, Martin said, reflects the influence of gaming slang. “Goblin mode” may be new, but “beast mode,” she said, goes back further for some track it to the 1988 Sega video game Altered Beast.

Other dictionary companies have opted for more conventional options. This year Merriam-Webster chose “gas lighting” (based on a 1,740% increase in searches on his site). Cambridge Dictionaries went along “homer”, This was one of the many five-letter words that increased this year thanks to Wordle. (On May 5, when “Homer” was the winning word, searches — many presumably from non-Americans — jumped to 65,000.)

Martin sheepishly admitted that she was in Oxford’s #TeamMetaverse competition. “In a way, that’s the boring, obvious thing,” she said. “But there are a lot of things about it that are interesting.”

For one, it has its origins in science fiction, in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash. And like ‘Cyberspace’, coined by writer William Gibson in 1982, it became ‘of science fiction’ with the internet’s heyday to Science Facts”.

So far, the trajectory of “Metaverse” is unclear. “Will it be something real? Or will it be a hackneyed marketing term that nobody uses?” said Martin.

Thanks in part to Facebook’s renaming as Meta (and betting its future on the Metaverse), the prefix “meta” has already transitioned from a high-profile philosophical word to something corporate and suspect for many. “Will the concept of people sitting around with goggles pollute the concept of ironic self-referentiality?” asked Martin.

She cited the concept from usage expert Bryan Garner “crazy words” — Words that have become unusable due to disputed meanings or problematic associations. “We wondered if that would happen with the verb ‘trump,'” she said. “But it didn’t.”

As for “Goblin Mode,” it’s sure to see another peak thanks to the publicity surrounding the Word of the Year. But — to use an adjective added to the OED in June — is it official cringe now?

Martin laughed. “Pretty sure.” The word of the year switches to goblin mode

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