Language isn’t stagnant. It evolves, it shifts, it blooms, it rolly-pollies differently each day. This is why The Latch doesn’t write about Vegemite coins or lettuce shortages like bombastic Shakespeare characters, as entertaining as that would be.
Moreover, the words we invent or redefine tell us something about who we are. Therefore, to lose the words that slapped in 2022 would be a great loss indeed.
Which brings us to the dictionaries. Every 12 months, these organisations try to preserve a massive cultural moment by dropping a word of the year. If a dictionary has done its job right, its word of the year will truly reflect how the zeitgeist and the English language has changed.
So, with all of this in mind, how did the dictionaries do this year? Did they capture the spirit of 2022? Or did they bomb hard? Well, I reviewed each dictionaries’ Word of the Year, and here’s how these word historians went:
Teal — The Macquarie Dictionary
Teal: A small wild duck or a dark greenish-blue colour.
Now, obviously the folks at the Macquarie Dictionary have a different definition of teal in mind for its Word of the Year. Instead of championing a bird or a shade of blue, this organisation has opted to discuss the wave of independents that dominated the 2022 federal election.
The Macquarie Dictionary has defined teal as “an independent political candidate who holds generally ideologically moderate views, but who supports strong action regarding environmental and climate action policies, and the prioritising of integrity in politics.”
These candidates are called teals, as a lot of them used the colour teal in their electoral material.
“Teal embodies the year that’s been,” said the Macquarie Dictionary’s committee.
“It’s hard to go past teal as an emblem of Australia’s political landscape in 2022. It’s not a brand-new word, but it is a brand-new sense that no one saw coming.”
So, how does the word teal stack up? Well, the federal teal candidates have drastically transformed the federal political landscape. In the 2022 federal election, the teals won a total of nine seats. This has caused some to wonder if the two-party battle between the Liberals and Labor is over.
Nevertheless, teal candidates haven’t made any big waves since then. This can be demonstrated in the fact that no independents are yet to win a seat in the 2022 Victorian state election.
This is a bit of a nitpick though, as the teal wave back in May’s federal election was massive. I, therefore, give the word ‘teal’ a strong 8/10.
Gaslighting — Merriam-Webster
Gaslighting: The psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time. This causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories. It also typically leads to confusion, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, dependency on the perpetrator, and a loss of confidence and self-esteem.
Well, that was gaslighting’s primary definition in the 20th Century. But in the last few years, the definition has become flatter and broader.
Merriam-Webster says gaslighting now also refers to “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for a personal advantage.”
This dictionary stated that gaslighting should be the word of the year because the search for it increased by 1740% in less than 12 months.
“In recent years, with the vast increase in channels and technologies used to mislead, gaslighting has become the favoured word for the perception of deception. This is why it has earned its place as our Word of the Year,” said Merriam-Webster.
However, while gaslighting is a popular word, I’m personally not sure that it’s word of the year material. This is because it was being used in a colloquial, sometimes jokey way since before 2022 rolled around. For instance, Teen Vogue published an article called Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America all the way back in 2016.
For this reason, I’m giving the word ‘gaslighting’ a light 6/10.
Homer — Cambridge Dictionary
Homer: Short for a home run. It’s 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.
Cambridge Dictionary chose homer as its Word of the Year because 65,000 searched it up back on May 5. This surge of popularity happened due to the word being used in the smash-hit game Wordle.
“This informal American English term for a home run in baseball left players of Wordle who were not familiar with the word feeling confused and frustrated. Tens of thousands of these Wordle players took to the Cambridge Dictionary to understand the meaning of the word homer,” said the Cambridge Dictionary.
Nevertheless, I think that this is a garbage word of the year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great word of the day. It’s even a decent word of the week. But all homer means in this context is that a lot of people liked Wordle.
I give the word ‘homer’ a mid 4/10.
Woman — Dictionary.com
That’s right, Dictionary.com made its 2022 Word of the Year, ’woman.’
“This year, the very matter of the definition of the word ‘woman’ was at the centre of so many consequential moments, discussions, and decisions in our society,” said John Kelly, Dictionary.com’s Senior Director of Editorial.
In this instance, Kelly wasn’t wrong. This is because he’s referring to the multitude of times in 2022 when people had disproportionate responses to the fact that trans women are women.
One of these main cultural moments was when the Republican party hassled an American Judge named Ketanji Brown Jackson. During Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, the Republicans wanted her to define what a woman was. The Republican party was hoping that Jackson would either say something transphobic or something that would upset transphobic voters. Jackson didn’t take the bait.
“Our selection of ‘woman’ as the Word of the Year for 2022, and how the word is defined, who is included in that definition, who the word applies and belongs to, highlights how important the work of a dictionary is, and how dictionaries can impact people’s lives,” said Kelly.
However, while Dictionary.com has chosen ‘woman’ as its Word of the Year, their definition is still rather outdated.
Dictionary.com has defined a woman as: “An adult female person.”
Meanwhile, Cambridge Dictionary has two vital definitions for the word woman. The first definition is basically the same as Dictionary.com’s one. Nevertheless, their second definition of a woman is: “An adult who lives and identifies as female though they may have been said to have a different sex at birth.”
The fact that Dictionary.com has chosen ‘woman’ as its word of the year without updating its definition is a disappointment, to say the least. I’m therefore awarding Dictionary.com’s 2022 Word of the Year a frank 2/10. I’m also giving Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of ‘woman’ a solid 10/10.
Permacrisis — Collins Dictionary
Permacrisis: An extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events.
Unfortunately, Collins Dictionary’s Word of the Year is a bit brilliant. This is because it feels like this year humanity has Tarzan-swung from crisis to crisis to crisis. In 2022, COVID hung around, Russia illegally invaded Ukraine, and climate change is still a gnarly timebomb.
“2022’s Word of the Year is permacrisis, a term that perfectly embodies the dizzying sense of lurching from one unprecedented event to another, as we wonder bleakly what new horrors might be around the corner,” said the author David Shariatmadari, on behalf of Collins Dictionary.
However, this word of the year isn’t perfect. Namely, some points will have to be deducted for the fact that nobody’s really using permacrisis in a colloquial setting. This word hasn’t taken over the zeitgeist.
In summation, it makes a tonne of sense that Collins Dictionary chose permacrisis as its word of the year. While it stumbles short of being a knockout, it also tells a pretty intoxicating narrative. I give the word ‘permacrisis’ a centered 7/10.
Goblin Mode — The Oxford English Dictionary
Goblin mode: A type of behaviour that’s unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.
For the first time in history, Oxford allowed the general public to choose its Word of the Year, and ‘goblin mode’ was what the majority of folks voted for. That’s right, in a sea of over 300,000 votes, ‘goblin mode’ beat words like ‘metaverse.’
Goblin mode was popularised in 2022 when a made-up headline about Julia Fox and the antisemitic Kanye West went viral. This fake headline read: “Julia Fox opened up about her ‘difficult’ relationship with Kanye West — “He didn’t like when I went goblin mode’.”
However, goblin mode was quickly and rapidly decoupled from this context to take on a narrative of its own. People started regularly using goblin mode to refer to behaviour they did that defied cultural norms.
This type of behaviour might’ve been on the rise throughout 2022, as some folks are continuing the atypical habits that they picked up during the COVID lockdowns. For instance, during the lockdowns, I’d sometimes devour a whole wheel of brie late on a shirtless night. This goblin-mode habit is still in my arsenal of vices.
Ben Zimmer, an American linguist and lexicographer, was pleased that this word was voted as Oxford’s Word of the Year.
Zimmer said, “Goblin Mode really does speak to the times and the zeitgeist, and it is certainly a 2022 expression. People are looking at social norms in new ways. It gives people the licence to ditch social norms and embrace new ones.”
Likewise, I think that the phrase ‘goblin mode’ slaps. Now that it’s transcended the likes of West, it’s the perfect word to describe one’s gnarly or buckwild behaviour. It’s a playful way to encapsulate the feeling of playing Yu-Gi-Oh in bed for an entire Saturday night.
For these reasons, I give ‘goblin mode’ a respectable 10/10.