Oxford Dictionaries announced that it has chosen “toxic” as its annual “Word of the Year”, arguing that it was “the sheer scope of its application that has made it the standout choice”.
Strictly defined as “poisonous”, Oxford Dictionaries said on its website Thursday that its research showed that “this year more than ever, people have been using ‘toxic’ to describe a vast array of things, situations, concerns and events”, CNN reported.
“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,” it 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”.
Oxford Dictionaries said that the “Me Too” movement has “put the spotlight on toxic masculinity” whereas in politics more broadly “the word has been applied to the rhetoric, policies, agendas and legacies of leaders and governments around the globe”.
Part of Oxford University Press (OUP), a department of the University of Oxford, the dictionary has, in the past, turned to neologisms to describe the zeitgeist, CNN said.
In 2017, its Word of the Year was “youthquake”, defined as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people”.
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.
The year before, however, it broke with tradition to choose the “tears of joy” emoji.
The Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year is chosen from a shortlist “drawn from evidence gathered by (its) extensive language research programmr, including the Oxford Corpus, which gathers around 150 million words of current English from web-based publications each month”.