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It’s time for everyone’s favorite end of the year filler column that saves your burned-out columnist from having to think up something better. It’s the annual words of the year column.
Exciting, I know. Welcome, tens of readers.
As usual, we’ll start out with the words skilled international word experts picked as the 2022 word of the year. Most of these experts are from some of the most respected dictionaries of the English language, including the one holding up your couch with a missing leg.
Over at Merriam-Webster, the word of the year is “gaslighting,” or “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.” The dictionary reports a 1,740 percent increase in lookups for gaslighting. Grossly misleading someone has become as American as concussion protocols, the transfer portal and active shooter drills. So the pick makes sense.
Hey, did the lights just get dimmer? Must be my imagination.
Across the pond, the Oxford English Dictionary word of the year is actually two words, “goblin mode.” Oxford says it’s a slang expression describing “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”
Wow, I’ve been in goblin mode for years and didn’t even know it.
Apparently, according to Oxford, the term, first used in 2009, has seen a resurgence as COVID mitigation measures faded and people rejected returning to “normal life.” It’s also about rebelling against the “unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles” we see on social media.
Maybe I can be an online influencer yet. My aesthetic standards are easily attainable. Think 1990s math teacher, but less cool. Check the clearance racks.
My favorite international pick is from Collins Dictionary, where the word of the year is “permacrisis.” It flows off the tongue, a good woody word, and explains so much.
Permacrisis, according to Collins describes “an extended period of instability and insecurity.” And here, I had just been reacting to all of our instability, the war in Ukraine, climate change and economic woes with primal screams into the deep, dark abyss of hopelessness. Good to know there’s a word. It will cause less alarm among my neighbors.
It reminds me of a previous word of the year from England, “omnishambles,” “a situation, especially in politics, in which poor judgment results in disorder or chaos with potentially disastrous consequences.” Wow, our leaders sure have left us in omnishambles trying to address the permacrisis.
If deploying permacrisis doesn’t make you feel better, try one of Collins’ other finalists, “splooting.” That is the “act of lying flat on your stomach with legs stretched out.” It sounds a lot like collapsing, but splooting is a lot more fun to say.
Back here in Iowa, most of my favorite words deployed this year cannot be printed in a family newspaper. Obscenities, mostly.
"In the heat of battle, my father wove a tapestry of obscenity that, as far as we know, is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan,” said the narrator in “A Christmas Story.” I can relate to the old man.
Speaking of “obscene,” Statehouse Republican politicians gave it a new definition, namely any book in a school library they don’t like. That includes mostly books by LGBTQ authors and people of color. They called for banning those books, and even toyed with the idea of jailing educators who made them available. Speaking of obscene.
Former Republican Senate President Jake Chapman declared that anyone who pushes back against book-banning has a “sinister” agenda to harm kids. His gaslight dimmed to black, thanks to voters who tossed him out of the Senate.
Amid all this cultural battling, Rep. Jeff Shipley, a Republican from Fairfield, tried to revive Sanskrit descriptions of girl and boy parts to argue against the rights of transgender students.
“That’s what I see as the problem,” Shipley said. “We have a lot of really young children out there and they have a sacred womb-space and they’re confused and think they have a wand of light.”
Yeah, I don’t think that’s the problem.
“Freedom of speech” also got some new meanings, such as protecting those students who are harassing transgender kids and making sure Iowa State University teaches climate change denial along with the vast scientific consensus that human caused global warming is wrecking the planet. See permacrisis.
But clearly, the Iowa word of the year isn’t even a word. It’s “the bird.” The middle finger. The double bird, even.
“When it comes to these gun-grabbing, freedom-hating, over-regulating, civil liberty-violating tyrants,” Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said in a speech in the Capitol rotunda in January. “Here’s my message … thank you.”
His message? Two middle fingers proudly thrust skyward. A historic moment, to be sure. Avis semper tyrannis!
Then, during the midterm campaign, Republican candidate for attorney general Brenna Bird released a TV ad which implored voters “Let’s give ‘em the Bird.”
Voice over: Brenna Bird, the tough as nails prosecutor criminals and liberals fear most
Iowan: Let’s give ‘em the Bird.
VO: As attorney general, Brenna Bird will protect Iowa from Biden’s extreme agenda.
Iowan: Give ‘em the Bird.
You get the idea. Bird ousted longtime Attorney General Tom Miller. So we can expect to see the Bird many times in the next four years.
I predict the bird will also be the word in 2023. If you’re a low-income worker, someone out of a job, a person denied abortion access, an LGBTQ Iowan, a journalist trying to cover state government, someone who values clean water or anyone who wants to invest in public schools instead of siphoning public money into private schools, the Republican majority is going to give you the bird, and probably the double bird, many, many times. They’ll risk a repetitive motion injury.
And if they do, or try to gaslight you, while they’re in goblin mode, just tell them to go sploot.
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