Word of the Year 2022: Its ‘Goblin mode’ for Oxford; 'Gaslighting' for Merriam-Webster

Collage of screenshots of the meaning of 'Goblin mode' and 'Gaslighting' taken from Oxford Dictionaries and  Merriam-Webster Dictionary websites.

Collage of screenshots of the meaning of 'Goblin mode' and 'Gaslighting' taken from Oxford Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster Dictionary websites.

Morung Learning Feature 

Capturing the current zeitgeist, two words describing human’s expression and action have been named as the Word of the Year (WOTY) 2022 by Oxford Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

For Oxford, it was “goblin mode”– a slang term denoting a type of behaviour which is “unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”

It is often used in the expressions ‘in goblin mode’ or ‘to go goblin mode,’ lexicographers at Oxford stated, adding that it is “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”

Although first seen on Twitter in 2009, goblin mode went viral on social media in February 2022, quickly making its way into newspapers and magazines after being tweeted in a mocked-up headline, Oxford Dictionaries informed on its website.

 The term then rose in popularity over the months following as Covid lockdown restrictions eased in many countries and people ventured out of their homes more regularly. 

“Seemingly, it captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to ‘normal life,’ or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media,” it added. 

 “Goblin Mode really does speak to the times and the zeitgeist, and it is certainly a 2022 expression. People are looking at social norms in new ways. It gives people the license to ditch social norms and embrace new ones,” Ben Zimmer, American linguist and lexicographer was quoted as saying at a special event to announce 2022 approach to selecting the Oxford WOTY. Over 300,000 people also cast their vote to select the WOTY.

Meanwhile, “metaverse” describing “a (hypothetical) virtual reality environment in which users interact with one another’s avatars and their surroundings in an immersive way, sometimes posited as a potential extension of or replacement for the internet, World Wide Web, social media, etc,” was placed second. 

The phrase ‘to stand with’ was third most popular word. ‘To stand with’ someone is used in the context of supporting them or taking their side, dates back to the 14th century. However, the hashtag #IStandWith emerged in the first decade of the 21st century; evidence has been found dating back to 2009.

 ‘#IStandWith’ has been identified as a way for people to communicate their opinions and align their stances on specific events and denotes how people demonstrate activism online and speak out for what they believe in.
For the compiler of the American Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the WOTY was 'Gaslighting.’

In this age of misinformation—of “fake news,” conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes—gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time, Webster stated declaring the WOTY 2022.

A driver of disorientation and mistrust, gaslighting is described as “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” 

There was 1740% increase in lookups for gaslighting, with high interest throughout the year in 2022. 

According to Webster, the origins of the word are colourful and came from the title of a 1938 play and the movie based on that play, the plot of which involves a man attempting to make his wife believe that she is going insane. 
“His mysterious activities in the attic cause the house’s gas lights to dim, but he insists to his wife that the lights are not dimming and that she can’t trust her own perceptions,” it said. 

The meaning of gaslighting, however, also undergone a change from its first usage in the mid 20th century where it was “referred to a kind of deception like that in the movie - psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time…’ 

In recent years, the meaning of gaslighting refers to something simpler and broader: “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for a personal advantage,” it added. 

Other top lookups on Merriam-Webster online corpus in 2022 were Oligarch, sentient, omicron, queen consort, endemic, codify and LGBTQIA, among others.