‘Toxic’ has been declared Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2018 as the adjective reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations in 2018. It defeated words like ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’ from the 2018 shortlist.
This year, ‘toxic masculinity’ is the second most used word consisting toxic as per the data. It comes right after ‘toxic chemical’.
The data shows that along with a 45 per cent rise in the number of times it has been looked up on oxforddictionaries.com, over the last year the word toxic has been used “to describe a vast array of things, situations, concerns and events.”
Words like ‘environment’, ‘relationship’ and ‘culture’ were also habitually used alongside toxic.
What is the meaning of ‘toxic’?
The adjective ‘toxic’ is defined as ‘poisonous’ and first appeared in English in the mid-seventeenth century from the medieval Latin toxicus, meaning ‘poisoned’ or ‘imbued with poison’.
“In its original, literal use, to refer to poisonous substances, ‘toxic’ has been ever-present in discussions of the health of our communities, and our environment,” Oxford said, pointing, among other examples, to the recent increase in discussion surrounding the “toxicity of plastics”.
But it adds that “toxic” has “truly taken off into the realm of metaphor, as people have reached for the word to describe workplaces, schools, cultures, relationships and stress”
What is an Oxford Word of the Year?
Oxford Dictionary selects one word as the Word of the Year at the end of every year. This word is the year’s keyword — something that describes the prominent mood or discussion of the people all year long.
Does the Word of the Year have to be a new word?
The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past twelve months but it does need to have become prominent or notable during that time.
How is the Word of the Year chosen?
Many of the candidates for the Word of the Year are drawn from Oxford’s language research programme and the Oxford English Corpus, which collects around 150 million words of current English each month from newspapers, books, blogs, and transcripts of spoken English.
Sophisticated software allows expert lexicographers to identify new and emerging words on and examine the shifts in how more established words are being used.
Dictionary editors will also flag notable words for consideration throughout the year and use other sources of data to identify contenders. We regularly take into account the many suggestions sent to us via social media and in the comments on our blog.
The final Word of the Year selection is made by the Oxford Dictionaries team on the basis of all the information available to us.
7 reasons ‘toxic’ is Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2018
1. Oxford Dictionaries said that the “Me Too” movement has “put the spotlight on toxic masculinity“.
“With the #MeToo movement putting a spotlight on toxic masculinity, and watershed political events like the Brett Kavanaugh Senate judiciary committee hearing sparking international debate, the term toxic masculinity has well and truly taken root in the public consciousness and got people talking in 2018,” the statement said.
2. In politics, “the word has been applied to the rhetoric, policies, agendas and legacies of leaders and governments around the globe”.
3. Beyond the more usual substance warnings, this year toxic chemical has had particular significance as the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer and his daughter in Britain sent shockwaves around the globe.
Ongoing international attention to the case, including rising concern over who has access to the world’s toxic chemical stockpiles, ensured that ‘chemical’ topped the list of words most frequently seen alongside toxic in 2018.
4. Similarly literal and deadly aretoxic substance, toxic gas, and toxic waste, with the latter especially becoming a focal point as the US seeks to combat the spread of toxic waste in the wake of hurricanes.
5. Air pollution has rapidly become a prime public health concern, and global attention reached a high in October 2018 when the World Health Organization published its report into the quality of air breathed by children worldwide.
The report described this pollution as toxic air, plainly and potently signifying its poisonous nature, and with the aid of international media coverage, served to consolidate the association of toxicity and poor air quality.
This burning of toxic waste, resulting in the release of toxic gases, has been identified as one of a number of causes of toxic air.
6. The term toxic environment itself, however, has been more frequently used in reference to harmful workplace environments and the toll this takes on the workforce’s mental health.
From overly demanding workloads to outright sexual harassment, many companies have been exposed as crucibles for such toxic culture this year, which has seen mass walkouts at Google, the fashion mogul Philip Green disgraced, and the Speaker of the House of Commons accused of misusing his official powers to cover up allegations of bullying in Westminster.
7. Toxic relationships are not exclusive to the workplace, however, and whether its partners, parents or even politicians, this year has seen so much discussion of ‘poisonous’ relationshipsacross the society that ‘relationship’ is the sixth most-seen toxic topic for 2018.
Shortlisted words for Oxford Word of the Year 2018
The Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year is chosen from a shortlist “drawn from evidence gathered by (its) extensive language research programme, including the Oxford Corpus, which gathers around 150 million words of current English from web-based publications each month”.
Here are the main contenders this year beat out by ‘toxic’.
1. Big Dick Energy (BDE): An attitude of understated and casual confidence.
2. Cakeism: Derived from the saying ‘have your cake and eat it too’, cakeism is the belief that it is possible to enjoy both of two desirable alternatives.
3. Gammon: Used to describe a middle-aged white man with right-wing opinions.
4. Gaslighting: The act of making someone doubt his/her own sanity by giving them a false sense of reality; it’s a psychological act to attain power.
5. Techlash: Strong negative reaction to the tech giants steadily growing for a few years now, especially those based in Silicon Valley. It’s a portmanteau comprising ‘technology’ and ‘backlash’.
6. Incel: Refers to the member of an online community comprising young men who feel they are unable to sexually attract women. Thus, they are hostile towards both men and women who are sexually active. Incel is short for ‘involuntary celibate’.
7. Orbiting: The act of stopping direct communication with someone while still observing and responding to their social media activity. It is different from ‘ghosting’ and is specifically used for social media minotoring.
8. Overtourism: Refers to too many tourists visiting a tourist spot which ends up causing environmental damage to the location and poorer lives for the residents.
Oxford Word of the Year from previous years
Previous years have also been influenced by the political landscape, with 2016 taking its cue from the Brexit referendum and US presidential election to choose “post-truth” as its word.
In 2017, the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year was “youthquake”, defined as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people”.
News credit : Indiatoday