Open Dictionary Word of the Year: hopemonger

Posted by on December 22, 2016

© GettyIt’s time to look back at the fortunes of the Open Dictionary during 2016. So far this year, over 1400 entries from all around the world have been published in the Open Dictionary, and just under 3000 rejected. Obviously a post like this can only give a taste of such riches, but here are some items that have caught my eye over the past twelve months. Not all of them are new to the language, but all seem relevant to the year that is ending.

It’s been a momentous year politically on both sides of the pond with elections leading to largely unexpected results in both the US and the UK, and contributions to the Open Dictionary have inevitably reflected that. Brexit itself was added way back in January 2013, when the whole notion seemed a bit of a joke, but the EU referendum result and its aftermath spawned a host of Brexit-inspired terms, including hard and soft Brexit, Brexit (the verb), Brexiteer, Brexistence, Brexitophobia, and Brextremist, as well as Bregret, Bremain, Breturn, Regrexit, Regrexiteer and Remoaner. Other more loosely related words include flexit, Nexit, Quitaly and Scexit. Creative as many of these coinages are, it seems doubtful that many will remain in the language in the long term.

The US election proved somewhat less fertile ground linguistically: perhaps American journalists are less addicted to wordplay than their British colleagues, who are the source of many of the coinages. Nevertheless the election season gave us Gold Star family, press pen, and whitelash, the last coined as recently as November by Van Jones, a commentator on CNN. Also relevant in the political context is the Overton window, the name given to the range of ideas that the public finds acceptable at any one time.

Social media figured prominently as always, with entries like chatbot, Twitter quitter, virtue signalling, SJW (or social justice warrior), snowflake generation, and egosurf. The area of lifestyle is always a fruitful one for neologisms: among those added this year are bleisure, freebirth, veggan, yo-yo dieting, and yogalates, while the ever-changing world of relationships gave us promposal, p-phub, and fauxmance. Business and the economy, meanwhile, were the source of one percenter, unretired, wash-up meeting, elevator pitch and the gig economy.

Gender and sexuality generally continued to be hot topics, with additions like non-binary, demigender, straightwashing, androgyne, ubersexual and retrosexual, while the good news story of the summer, the progress of tiny Iceland through the European football championships, gave us the rousing Viking clap. From science and medicine came quantum computer/ing, quantum bit (or qubit), abiotic, horst, ICD and metabolome.

My initial choice for Open Dictionary Word of the Year was demagogic, submitted (presciently, some might say) by Manuel Lujan from Argentina back in May. This is by no means a new word; in fact it’s a very old one that comes from Greek, but until now it was missing from our dictionary. Manuel defined it as characteristic of or resembling a demagogue, which Macmillan Dictionary defines as a political leader who tries to influence people by making emotional speeches. A figure as old as politics itself, then. I’ll leave you to decide if it is an appropriate word to sum up the year that is ending.

But writing in the darkest days of winter I thought it was preferable to choose something to lift the spirits, so my word of the year 2016 is hopemonger, added by Kerry (our own Kerry Maxwell) in March.  Words ending in -monger tend to refer to someone who sells something (like fishmonger, ironmonger) or by extension to someone who promotes or spreads something bad (warmonger, scaremonger). So hopemonger goes against the grain, linguistically speaking, and perhaps also in terms of the zeitgeist.

If you have your own suggestions for a Word of the Year please do add them using the Comments box under this post. Thanks for all your submissions during 2016 and do keep them coming. If there’s a word or expression that you think deserves inclusion in the Open Dictionary you can submit it here. Don’t forget to check first to make sure your word isn’t in our dictionary already.

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Comments (1)
  • Excellent summary of the year’s linguistic innovations. Glad that you choice swims against the tide, we need more hopemongers and less post-truth and demagogy. Thank you.

    Posted by Alfie on 23rd December, 2016
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