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That time of the year for “Word of the Year”

December 22, 2018

My battle with the calendar continues. Once again I can’t believe the end of another year is upon us. It is time now to review various dictionaries’ choices for “Word of the Year” 2018.

First up is Dictionary.com’s choice, “misinformation.” Dictionary.com defines it as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” Its website contains a discussion over the confusion between the words misinformation and disinformation, which is defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.”

Misinformation is spread by people who generally believe what they are passing along but have not taken the time and effort to confirm if the information is factual and accurate. Nefarious characters plant disinformation, which is then passed on by gullible characters as misinformation.

Dictionary.com’s runners-up were “representation, self-made and backlash.”

The Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year is “toxic,” which is defined as “poisonous.” It reports a 45 percent increase of look-ups of this word on its site in a variety of contexts, including environment, relationship and culture.

Some of its runners-up were “gaslighting, incel and techlash.”

Collins Dictionary (published by HarperCollins in Glasgow) says “single-use” is word of the year for 2018. Defined, obviously, as “made to be used only once,” the term was chosen because of the awareness of such products, mostly plastic, clogging the environment.

Collins, a more Eurocentric publication, had some strange, to me anyway, runners-up. For example, “plogging,” a word of Scandinavian origin meaning “picking up litter while jogging.” Also, “gammon” (normally a type of ham) denoting “an angry red-faced person” and “floss or flossing,” a dance craze apparently sweeping the world — who knew?

Merriam-Webster’s choice for this year is “justice.” This word was its top look-up for 2018. The company’s website reports that although a word like justice is seemingly common and well-known, when it is used in specific contexts, look-ups spike. Their discussion of the word ended with this observation, “For many reasons and for many meanings, one thing’s for sure: justice has been on the minds of many people in 2018.”

A few of Webster’s runners-up were nationalism, feckless and epiphany.

My choice for Word of the Year would be “tribalism.” This choice is not based on statistics or extensive research but rather my own sense of the times. Tribalism, of course, is not new to 2018; however, it seems to have become more fully incarnated now because of those who seek to divide and pit us against each other. I hope the concepts of “unity” and “justice” will strongly counter this odious trend.

I’m breaking the rules this year by not reporting a “Top Ten” list. I do have two things, though. Unless you are talking about a rhetorical device concerning circular reasoning, please, please do not use the phrase “begs the question.” “It out-Herods Herod. Pray you, avoid it.”

I know I am tilting at windmills here, but for the love of all lexicality, do not place the word “most” before the word “unique.” Are there no more sacred absolute adjectives?

John Eubanks is author of the book “Life Support of Another Sort,” and a former teacher and actor who lives in Converse. He can be reached at joneu62@gmail.com

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