Youthquake, complicit, fake news, feminism and truth have been named top words of 2017 by several dictionaries and a language monitoring body for being reflective of the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the year and also for emerging as terms of significance. The Oxford Dictionaries Word defined its word of 2017 ‘youthquake’ as ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’. “The data collated by our editors shows a fivefold increase in usage of youthquake in 2017 compared to 2016, the word having first struck in a big way in June with the UK’s general election at its epicentre,” Oxford said. Youthquake was coined in 1965 by Diana Vreeland, editor- in-chief of Vogue, to describe the youth-led fashion and music movement of the swinging sixties, which saw baby boomers reject the traditional values of their parents.
“As in 2017, the UK was at the heart of the youthquake, with ‘the London Look’ of boutique street-style individualism taking the high fashion houses of Paris, Milan, and New York by storm to inform a new mass-produced, ready-to-wear fashion directive worldwide,” Oxford said. Other words that made to the Oxford shortlist were milkshake duck, white fragility, unicorn, kompromat, broflake, newsjacking, gorpcore and antifa. Dictionary.com named ‘complicit’ as its word of the year. Complicit means “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing.” Or, put simply, it means being, at some level, responsible for something… even if indirectly. “The word complicit has sprung up in conversations this year about those who speak out against powerful figures and institutions and about those who stay silent,” according to dictionary.com.
“This year has seen a real awakening to complicity in various sectors of society, from politics to pop culture. Our choice for word of the year is as much about what is visible as it is about what is not. It’s a word that reminds us that even inaction is a type of action,” it said. ‘Fake news’ was selected as the word of the year by Collins Dictionary. “It has been derided by the leader of the free world and accused of influencing elections, but ‘fake news’ is today legitimate news as it is named Collins’ Word of the Year 2017. The word saw an unprecedented usage increase 365 per cent since 2016,” the dictionary said. As defined by Collins, ‘fake news’ means “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting”. Merriam-Webster’s chose ‘feminism’ as its word of the year.
“The word was a top lookup throughout the year, with several spikes that corresponded to various news reports and events. The general rise in lookups tells us that many people are interested in this word; specific spikes give us insight into some of the reasons why,” it said. “Feminism spiked following news coverage of the Women’s March on Washington, DC in January (and other related marches held around the country and internationally), and follow-up discussions regarding whether the march was feminist, and what kind of feminism was represented by organizers and attendees. “The word spiked again when Kellyanne Conway said during an interview that she didn’t consider herself a feminist. In this case, the definition of feminism was itself the subject of the news story – an invitation for many people to look up the word,” the dictionary said. “More recently, lookups of feminism have been increasing in conjunction with the many accounts of sexual assault and harassment in the news. Many women have come forward to share their stories with journalists and many more women joined in on social media using the #MeToo hashtag to say that they too have been affected by such behaviour.
“The string of breaking news stories regarding the resignations, firings, or dismissals of men who have been charged with sexual harassment or assault has kept this story in the news,” it said. Finally, Global Language Monitor, which tracks the top trending words, announced ‘truth’ as its word of the year for global English. In addition, the Weinstein Effect was named the top phrase and Chinese leader Xi Jingping the top name of 2017. Following ‘truth’ were the words narrative, Opioids, awoke, nuclear option, deep state, robot apocalypse, higher level of fake news, Blessee, and lean into. “GLM’s methodology is to examine the totality of global English with the tools now available to better understand the underlying trends that shape our words and, hence, our world,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of GLM.