With December half gone, we’re already deep into Word of the Year season. Dictionary.com has chosen “complicit”; Merriam-Webster chose “feminism”; Collins Dictionary offered “fake news.” Oxford University Press selected “Trump” as its Children’s Word of the Year for 2017, while Oxford Dictionaries picked youthquake, which last was popular in the 1960s, although for different reasons. (The word was coined in 1965 by Vogue editor Diana Vreeland.) Cambridge Dictionary picked “populism.” On NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Geoff Nunberg made the case for “tribal” (although on Twitter, he made another suggestion); on Twitter, John Kelly nominated “bot,” and on the Oxford Dictionaries blog he rounded up an assortment of WOTYs, including, from Switzerland, harcèlement, or “harassment.” And the pseudonymous Emmet Lee Dickinson has been counting down December with a daily WOTY.
To appropriate a phrase: me too. As in the past, my choices for 2017 follow the guidelines of the American Dialect Society, which will choose its own WOTYs on January 5, 2018, at its annual meeting in Salt Lake City. (If you happen to be in the vicinity, the vote is open to the public. Go!) Nominated words don’t have to be brand new, but they do need to “show widespread usage by a large number of people in a variety of contexts and situations, and which reflect important events, people, places, ideas, or preoccupations of English-speakers in North America in 2017.” They don’t have to be single words, by the way: any “lexical item” qualifies, including hashtags and short phrases.
My WOTY, however, is a single word: reckoning, an old word given new relevance and significance by current events. Details below.
Here’s my full list of notable words of the year, in alphabetical order. Some links go to my original Word of the Week posts.