Goodnight decade! Goodnight year! Goodnight words that made us cheer—or jeer—and which summed up the stories of 2019.
So far, Oxford Dictionaries has selected climate emergency as its #WOTY19, Collins Dictionary—clearly tapping into the same zeitgeist—picked climate strike, and Cambridge Dictionary chose upcycling. In Australia, Macquarie Dictionary singled out cancel culture from a longlist of 75 words (see my own take on canceled below). Here in the US, Dictionary.com chose existential (as in existential threat and existential choice) while Merriam-Webster picked they (the singular gender-neutral or nonbinary pronoun). “What do these words tell us?” asked CNN’s Samantha Allen. “That it’s Generation Z’s world now—and if it’s not already, then it should be soon.”
One of my favorite non-dictionary WOTY lists is posted each year as a countdown from December 1 to 31 by “The Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum” in “Washerst, PA.” As of this writing, the Dickinson has given us constitutional crisis, perfect, Green New Deal, infested, and other 2019-isms. Meanwhile, on Twitter, John Cunningham proposed plant-based, a non-judgmental alternative to fake meat.
On Friday, January 3, the American Dialect Society—the progenitor of all these WOTY contests—will vote on its own Word of the Year at the society’s annual meeting in New Orleans. If you’re in the neighborhood, you may want to drop by; the voting is free, open to the public, and hella fun. You may also submit nominations by email.
My list follows ADS guidelines, which say that a WOTY must be
— demonstrably new or newly popular in the year in question
— widely and/or prominently used in the year in question
— indicative or reflective of the popular discourse
— not a peeve or a complaint about overuse or misuse
In alphabetical order: