April 20, 2018

“Youthquake” Chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries 2017 Word of the Year

From an Oxford Dictionaries Media Release:

Youthquakenoun /ˈjuːθkweɪk/
A significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people

Today, Oxford Dictionaries announces ‘youthquake’ as its Word of the Year for 2017.

2017 has been, without doubt, a year of seismic cultural, political, and social shifts played out across the globe. But it was the so-called political awakening of the oft-maligned millennial generation which generated the word of 2017.

Announced as the chosen word in a blog post and videoyouthquake saw an almost fivefold (401%) increase in usage between 2016 and 2017, following the British general election where much debate focused on the mobilization of young voters in supporting opposition parties. Aftershocks have been felt across the world, including in New Zealand and in France, and whether or not they experienced a youthquake, the word certainly highlights the increased awareness of young people’s capacity to influence, and even drive, political change.

However, despite so aptly capturing the mood of 2017, youthquake is not a new word but rather one that is newly prominent this year and being used in different contexts. Based on the formation of the word ‘earthquake’ and originally coined in the 1960s by then-Vogue editor, Diana Vreeland, to describe how British youth culture was changing the world’s fashion and music, youthquake was resurrected this year to be used in a new context.

Youthquake may not seem like the most obvious choice for Word of the Year, and it’s true that it’s yet to land firmly on American soil, but strong evidence in the UK calls it out as a word on the move,’ says Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries.  In a dedicated blog post, Grathwohl notes, ‘We chose youthquake based on its evidence and linguistic interest. But most importantly for me, at a time when our language is reflecting our deepening unrest and exhausted nerves, it is a rare political word that sounds a hopeful note. Sometimes you pick a word as the Word of the Year because you recognize that it has arrived, but other times you pick one that is knocking at the door and you want to help usher it in.. This past year calls for a word we can all rally behind.’

Susie Dent, consultant to Oxford Dictionaries, said: ‘There’s not a lot of sunshine in the standout words this year. Words like Antifa, and kompromat speak to fractured times of mistrust and frustration. In youthquake we find some hope in the power to change things, and had a little bit of linguistic fun along the way. It feels like the right note on which to end a difficult and divisive year.’

The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a word or expression chosen to reflect the passing year in language. Every year, the Oxford Dictionaries team debates over a selection of candidates for Word of the Year, choosing the one that best captures the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year.

The Word of the Year shortlist

The Word of the Year (youthquake) and the accompanying shortlist have been selected as they reflect the social, cultural, political, and economic trends and events that have been a part of 2017. The list includes words that have been coined this year as well as older words that have taken on new meaning or have particular resonance in 2017.

 In alphabetical order, the shortlisted words for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2017 are:

Antifanoun
A political protest movement comprising autonomous groups affiliated by their militant opposition to fascism and other forms of extreme right-wing ideology

Antifa is a shortening of ‘anti-fascist’ and has morphed over time to become a proper noun used to refer to an extreme anti-fascist movement. Originally a loan word from German with usage dating back to WWII, Antifa is only becoming widely used in English now and its pronunciation and grammar are still very much in flux. Our current definition uses a capital letter and gives two pronunciation forms: primary stress can either go on the first syllable (as it would for the word ‘antifascist’) or on the second syllable as with Spanish words like ‘tortilla’. Use of the word skyrocketed following high-profile protest movements across the world this year and it looks set to become a permanent part of our current political lexicon.

broflakenoun
informal, derogatory
A man who is readily upset or offended by progressive attitudes that conflict with his more conventional or conservative views

Lexically, broflake combines two prominent trends in 21st century English lexical innovation: the appropriation of terminology from one’s political opponents and the popularity of compounds using ‘man-’ and ‘bro-’ to refer to male behaviour and characteristics. Spawned by the growing derogatory use of ‘snowflake’ to refer to an overly sensitive or easily offended person, progressive activists reversed this by combining the ‘-flake’ from ‘snowflake’ with ‘bro-’to target behaviour regarded as emblematic of male privilege and anti-feminism.

Widely used to deride conservative figures when they revealed their own sensitivities around issues such as female-only spaces and challenge the idea of the male experience as a default, broflake was being used in social media by late 2016 but appeared for the first time in mainstream sources this year and is now spreading to social media in non-English languages. It is a word that not only emerged in 2017 but truly captures some of the most hotly debated issues underpinning it.

gorpcorenoun
A style of dress incorporating utilitarian clothing of a type worn for outdoor activities

A 2017 fashion trend, the word gorpcore was created by combining ‘gorp’, an American term for trail mix and frequently thought to be an acronym for ‘good old raisins and peanuts’ (although this is unsubstantiated), with the suffix ‘-core’ taken from ‘normcore’. It refers to a trend for functional outdoor clothing worn for fashion, rather than for practical reasons.

 Popular with fashion commentators in 2017, gorpcore was celebrated for capturing an idealism in the outdoors—without its wearers necessarily having to directly interact with anything more wild than the leafy suburbs—as well as bringing comfort to the upper reaches of designer fashion.

kompromatnoun
Compromising information collected for use in blackmailing, discrediting, or manipulating someone, typically for political purposes

A loanword from Russian, kompromat is a blended abbreviation of the phrase komprometirujuščij material (compromising material), which is ultimately derived from those English words, making this a sort of ‘boomerang loanword’, in which an English word is adopted into a foreign language, changed and remixed, and then borrowed back.

Kompromat hit the headlines at several points throughout 2017 following high profile accusations against politicians across the world and shadowy suggestions of secret dossiers. The prevalence of kompromat this year underlines the global nature of our political interchange as well as our free flow of language between different countries and cultures.

Milkshake Ducknoun
A person or thing that initially inspires delight on social media but is soon revealed to have a distasteful or repugnant past

Imagine a milkshake-drinking duck. Beloved of the online community for its innocent and adorable milkshake-drinking antics. Cute, right? But then you find out that this duck is actually a rampaging racist… Voilà, the quintessential ‘Milkshake Duck’!

 Originating in the Twittersphere in 2016, ‘Milkshake Duck’ has become a way to refer to any person or thing that gains fleeting popularity for something seemingly pleasing, only for a deeper exploration to reveal unfortunate truths about their past or opinions, typically a connection to or history of some form of bigotry. It saw a spike in usage in June 2017 following some unfortunate revelations about a popular game developer.

newsjackingnoun
The practice of taking advantage of current events or news stories in such a way as to promote or advertise one’s product or brand

Remember when La La Land was named Best Picture instead of Moonlight? And remember how Specsavers jumped straight on that meme band wagon? The internet loved it – a perfect example of how newsjacking came to the fore this year.

The term itself originates from the 1970s where it was used in reference to the theft of newspapers in order to sell them to scrap dealers. The current usage has been around throughout the early 21st century and the technique utilized by savvy marketers for years. The strength of feelings around the themes and stories that were the focus of this year’s newsjacking campaigns and the support or backlash they inspired ensured that ‘newsjacking’ took a slot on this year’s Word of the Year shortlist.

unicornadjective [attributive]
Denoting something, especially an item of food or drink, that is dyed in rainbow colours, decorated with glitter, etc.

The ‘rainbowfication’ of the world’s foodstuffs has been on our radar (and Instagram feeds) since 2016 but peaked this year with the launch of a Unicorn Frappuccino by Starbucks in April. Bringing the trend fully into the mainstream, 2017 will go down in history as the year that we all had our fill of unicorn lattes, unicorn bagels, and even, unicorn grilled cheese…

white fragility noun
Discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice

Coined in a 2011 journal article by the US academic and educator Robin DiAngelo, white fragility reached the mainstream this year as questions of racial equality ran close to the surface of debate across the world. With evidence for the term’s use particularly strong in university newspapers, white fragility encapsulates a key undercurrent of political and cultural debate in 2017 and could not be overlooked for this year’s Word of the Year shortlist.

Which words have been selected as Word of the Year in recent years?

Year Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year  Oxford Dictionaries US Word of the Year
2004 chav
2005 Sudoku  podcast
2006 Bovvered  carbon-neutral
2007 carbon footprint  locavore
2008 credit crunch  hypermiling
2009 Simples  unfriend
2010 big society  refudiate
2011 squeezed middle
2012 Omnishambles  GIF (verb)
2013 selfie
2014 vape
2015  (Face With Tears of Joy emoji)
2016 post-truth
2017 youthquake


Word of the Year FAQ

Is youthquake in an Oxford dictionary?

Yes, this definition of youthquake was added to OxfordDictionaries.com very recently. However, youthquake has been in the OED with its previous definition for several years.

What is the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year (WOTY)?

The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a word, or expression, that we can see has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date. Every year, candidates for Word of the Year are debated and one is eventually chosen that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance. The Word of the Year selection is made irrespective of whether the candidates are already included in an Oxford dictionary, and selection does not guarantee future inclusion. The names of people, places, or events are not suitable as Words of the Year.

Does the Word of the Year have to be a new word?

The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past twelve months but it does need to have become prominent or notable during that time.

How is the Word of the Year chosen?

Many of the candidates for the Word of the Year are drawn from our language research programme and the Oxford English Corpus, which collects around 150 million words of current English each month from newspapers, books, blogs, and transcripts of spoken English. Sophisticated software allows our expert lexicographers to identify new and emerging words on and examine the shifts in how more established words are being used.

Dictionary editors will also flag notable words for consideration throughout the year and use other sources of data to identify contenders. We regularly take into account the many suggestions sent to us via social media and in the comments on our blog.

The final Word of the Year selection is made by the Oxford Dictionaries team on the basis of all the information available to us.

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in the US and the UK

Oxford Dictionaries has editorial staff based in the UK and in the US. Over the years, the UK and US dictionary teams have often chosen different Words of the Year. Each country’s vocabulary develops in different ways, according to what is happening culturally and in the news, and as such the Words of the Year can be different. Sometimes, a word captures the imagination on both sides of the Atlantic and can therefore be considered as a joint Word of the Year.

Is this the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Word of the Year?

OED editors are involved in the Word of the Year selection team, but the Word of the Year is not exclusively chosen by the OED editors. Oxford University Press publishes many dictionaries around the world, including the OED, and the Word of the Year is selected by a group representing both the OED and OxfordDictionaries.com. Find out more about the main differences between the OED and OxfordDictionaries.com, or about Oxford University Press.

Direct to Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year Website

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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