‘Goblin Mode’ and More Words of the Year 2022: Part One



Bryan Garner, editor of Black’s Law Dictionary, writes about words in National Review. Pamela Paul, editor of NYT Book Review, is surrounded by words to read by deadline. Even actor and comedian Will Ferrell has a good quote on words. “Sometimes, I use big words I don’t always fully understand,” he said. “I do it in an effort to make myself sound more photosynthesis.”

This year, for the first time, the Oxford University Press Word of the Year was selected by respondents, not the editors. Approximately 300,000 people voted, choosing between “goblin mode,” “metaverse” and “#IStandWith.” Goblin mode won; this term was seen on Twitter in 2019, then spread widely in February 2022. It is slang for self-indulgent, sluggish or greedy behavior. People under the spell of goblins are “in goblin mode” or “going into goblin mode.”

“When COVID-19 lockdown rules loosened and people began leaving their homes more frequently, the phrase seemed a useful way to represent the general attitude,” the publisher explained. “(This attitude) was of rebellion against the notion of going back to their pre-pandemic lives, or against unrealistic beauty standards and unsustainable lifestyles promoted on social media.”

I give this 92% as it seems popular; I expect it to fizzle out in a few years.

Metaverse came in second place. Oxford Press said the word began its popularity in 2021, but I heard it used a few years earlier. This word refers to a virtual reality environment of user interactions with avatars and surroundings in an immersive way. Some people hope it can be an extension or replacement of the internet, web, etc. I give this term 96% as it sounds wonky, and as meta- is already a popular compound name — as in meta-analysis and meta-physics.

In third place is #IStandWith, which Oxford traces to the 14th century, not word-by-word but the idea of standing with someone in support or taking their side. (Of course, the hashtag, a metadata tag, was not even thought about in the 14th century.) The hashtag we know developed around 2009, when there were controversies, wars or other difficulties with people seeking solidarity. It is a simple phrase, but a powerful one. I give it 97%.

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year is “gaslighting.” As a multiplier of disorientation and distrust, gaslighting is defined as “the act of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” In 2022, there was a 1,740% increase in lookups for gaslighting, consistent throughout the year.

“Its origins are colorful: the term comes from the title of a 1938 play,” notes publisher Merriam. “In the movie and the original play, the plot involves a man attempting to make his wife believe 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.”

Are all politicians immune from using “psychological manipulation over a long time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts”? No, but some take advantage in this era of 24-hour advertising and polarization. The extent that gaslighting affects someone depends; sometimes it is worse.

Do a number of salesmen take advantage of victims’ confusion, loss of confidence and dependency? Yes. Recently, Oxford press said the term gaslighting applies to “the act of grossly misleading someone, especially for a personal advantage.” The term gaslighting earns 95% for its accuracy and wide use.

The fifth and last term this week is “Queen Consort.” When Prince Charles became king, after Queen Elizabeth II died, his wife Camilla became Queen Consort. She is the king’s wife, but not in the line of succession. Prince Philip, as the husband of the reigning queen, was addressed as “Prince Consort.”

Camilla was on track to be called consort but not queen consort, after Diana died and people knew she was an interloper in that marriage. But her 18 years of marriage to Charles, and her keen charity work, earned her a place as Queen Consort. The term Queen Consort seems a little clunky, but it gets 93%.

Part Two of my Words of the Year 2022 series will appear next week. I will assess another five words. Be careful in your use of insulting or “cuss” words.

 “Words are free. It’s how you use them, that may cost you.”

Don’t use them wrongly; it’s better when they elevate people, not hurt them.

Greg Markley moved to Lee County in 1996. He has a master’s in education from AUM and a master’s in history from Auburn University. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to The Observer since 2011. He writes on politics, education and books. gm.markley@charter.net


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