Published: 24th December 2018
Which are the words of the year? Here's how they are chosen by major publishers like Oxford, Cambridge
Except ‘nomophobia’, all the other words are quite familiar to learners of English. The word is a combination of these three words: ‘no’, ‘mobile’ and ‘phobia’
Every year in the month of December, publishers of major dictionaries such as Oxford, Cambridge, Collins, and Merriam-Webster announce their ‘word of the year’. Oxford’s word of the year for 2018 is toxic, Cambridge’s word is nomophobia, Collins’ word is single-use and Merriam-Webster’s word is justice.
Except ‘nomophobia’, all the other words are quite familiar to learners of English. The word is a combination of these three words: ‘no’, ‘mobile’ and ‘phobia’. What does it mean? It means ‘fear of being without access to a working cell phone’. Cambridge Dictionary defines the term as ‘fear or worries at the idea of being without your mobile phone or unable to use it’. I like the word ‘nomophobia’ because the idea of ‘mobile phone separation anxiety’ has been coined in an easy-to-remember and easy-to-pronounce manner. Though the word has been in use for over a decade, many are not familiar with the term. Here are examples of how the word has been used in sentences:
- Using the online polling service OnePull, SecurEnvoy found that 66 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed in the United Kingdom say they fear losing or to be without their phone. Just four years ago, a similar survey found that only 53 per cent of people suffered from nomophobia. (Deborah Netburn in The Los Angeles Times, February 17, 2012).
- Nomophobia affects teenagers and adults alike. (www.theguardian.com, August 28, 2017)
The word ‘single-use’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) is quite a significant term. The word refers to products (mainly things made of plastic) that are ‘made to be used once only’. Why did Collins’ lexicographers name it Word of the Year 2018?
The use of plastic is on the rise and as it damages the environment, there is a global campaign to reduce the use of plastic. The 4.5 billion-word Collins Corpus reveals that the word has seen a four-fold increase since 2013 and there has been an increasing number of news stories and reports that aim to create awareness of the issue among the public.
It is quite interesting to know how words are shortlisted and chosen. For example, the online Cambridge Dictionary editors chose a list of four of the most popular and most relevant words from the 2018’s new additions and then asked the Cambridge Dictionary blog readers and social media followers to vote for the word they believed best sums up the year. The word that received most votes is ‘nomophobia’.
The other three words that were shortlisted are a gender gap, ecocide, and no-platforming. All the three words are nouns. ‘Gender gap’ refers to ‘a difference between the way men and women are treated in society’, ‘ecocide’ means ‘destruction of the natural environment of an area’, and ‘no-platforming’ refers to ‘the practice of refusing someone an opportunity to make their ideas or beliefs known publicly. When I discussed these words with a group of teachers recently, they asked me what my choice would be. I said, “If I voted, my choice would be ‘no-platforming’.”
Why did Oxford Dictionary choose ‘toxic’, a seventeenth-century term, as its Word of the Year 2018? According to OD, “this year more than ever, people have been using ‘toxic’ to describe a vast array of things, situations, concerns, and events, though the word originally meant ‘poisonous’.
Now the word is used as a metaphor to describe workplaces, schools, cultures, relationships, and stress. In politics, the word is used to refer to ‘the rhetoric, policies, agendas, and legacies of leaders and governments around the globe’. The terms ‘toxic masculinity’ and ‘toxic femininity’ are very commonly used these days. ‘Toxic masculinity’ refers to stereotypically masculine gender roles.
Many celebrities have been accused of toxic masculinity.
Merriam-Webster states that the search for the word ‘justice’ spiked during the year and one of the reasons for the spike could be the debates whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice in the federal investigation into Russian election interference. Let’s start using the words ‘nomophobia’, ‘single-use’, ‘toxic’ and ‘justice’ and make them real words of the year 2018.