Word of the Year: Resilience

Published 4:35 pm Friday, December 30, 2022

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Every December we try to sum up a whole year in just one word – a difficult task to accomplish, for sure.

Several English dictionaries pick a “word of the year” annually to try to put a label on our collective experience over the past 12 months. They use different metrics and methods to make the selection, and oftentimes, it ends up being the most-searched word since that’s a good indicator it’s a word on a lot of people’s minds. Whatever “word of the year” gets selected is usually some sort of hot topic for discussion for a sustained period of time.

Last year, the dictionaries chose a variety of different words. Some still referred to pandemic-related vocabulary, like “vax” and “vaccine,” while others focused on other terms that made an impact in 2021, such as “NFT” (non-fungible token) and “allyship.”

This year’s words saw us moving away from more pandemic terms as we start trying to put COVID-19 behind us. (The virus is still out there, of course, even if we’ve gotten more used to dealing with it.) The results, instead, are much more culture-focused. And I think some of the picks were really surprising.

My least favorite word of the year was chosen by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. They always select the word that was most searched-for on their website each year, and in 2022, that word apparently was “gaslighting.”

How depressing!

If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” The dictionary reported that the word had a 1740 percent increase in lookups this year, with searches spread out all year long and not just for one particular time period.

The term originates from a 1938 play, and has come to be used as a term for a kind of abuse based on questioning the validity of the victim’s perception. But more broadly, it’s a term for misleading people. Relevant, considering how often people talk about misinformation and fraud these days.

I understand why Merriam-Webster picked this word, but it’s certainly one that doesn’t inspire me to look back on 2022 with any sort of fondness!

The UK-based Collins Dictionary’s pick wasn’t very warm and fuzzy either. They selected “permacrisis” as the Word of the Year. It’s defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity.”

I can see why the dictionary in the United Kingdom would pick a word like that, considering that there’s a war going on in eastern Europe, the country’s in the middle of a financial crisis (who isn’t, at this point?), the Queen died after 70 years on the throne, and they’re on their third prime minister in two years.

“Much more of this and we might have forgotten what stability and security ever felt like,” reads the blog post announcing this year’s selection.

Those of us “across the pond” can probably relate to a word like “permacrisis” too, even though our crises are different.

On a lighter note, however, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) decided to shake things up a bit this time. So they let the public vote for the first time ever on their word selection.

As the dictionary’s website explains, “The Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression reflecting the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months, one that has potential as a term of lasting cultural significance.”

With that in mind, would you be surprised to learn that the winner was “goblin mode”?

Yes, when I think of “lasting cultural significance,” goblin mode is the first thing that comes to mind. (This is sarcasm, in case that does not translate well on paper.)

According to OED, “goblin mode” is a slang term meaning “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”

More than 300,000 cast a vote in the OED Word of the Year contest this year, and the President of Oxford Languages said he was totally caught by surprise with the “level of engagement” from the public. I’m not surprised, however. Most people on the internet will take two seconds to vote in any sort of internet poll and choose the most ridiculous answer available for fun. Perhaps that too is a form of “goblin mode.”

Lastly, Dictionary.com also made an interesting selection this year, and I think it’s probably the most fitting selection out of the four dictionaries. They selected one of the oldest words in our language: “woman.”

“Our selection of woman as our 2022 Word of the Year reflects how the intersection of gender, identity, and language dominates the current cultural conversation and shapes much of our work as a dictionary,” they said in a blog post, noting that throughout the year, searches for the word spiked several times on their website.

As Dictionary.com points out, there have been several prominent discussions about women throughout the past 12 months, such as the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the protests for women’s rights in Iran, and discussions of prominent women athletes (including retirements of Serena Williams and the arrest/release of Brittney Griner). And those are only a few of the biggest examples.

“The utter variety of all these events is a reminder that one word can never sufficiently summarize or encapsulate an entire year. Nevertheless, 2022 will be remembered in part for its impact on women, and for women’s impact on a changing world,” the blog post continued.

I agree with that reasoning. As a woman too, I did find myself thinking a lot more about how we are still carving out a place for ourselves in the world. There is still much work to be done.

As usual, I also like to choose my own personal “word of the year” to describe my own journey through the past 12 months. Last year, I picked “perseverance” since I was, like everyone else, learning how to roll with all the ways the pandemic has changed our lives even as we returned to some semblance of normal.

My word for 2022 has been “resilience.” Similar to last year’s word, it means “the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties.”

You never know when life is going to throw you some curveballs, and I’ve had a few this year, but my family and I have been resilient in the face of those challenges. We’ve had a lot of support to help us so far, and I’m so grateful for it. I hope to carry that same determined resilience into 2023 as well.

What would be your personal Word of the Year?

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.