2016 was not a great year for words. According to Dictionary.com, there was an overarching theme in trending lookup data that wasn’t too surprising, but was terribly disappointing. The Word of the Year was xenophobia, defined as the fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers. It also refers to fear or dislike of customs, dress, and cultures of people with backgrounds different from our own.
It doesn’t get much better when we consider the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth, an adjective defined as relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. The runners up are equally dismal, from coulrophobia (an extreme or rational fear of clowns), glass cliff (used with reference to a situation in which a woman or member of a minority group ascends to a leadership position in challenging circumstances where the risk of failure is high), and alt-right (we can’t even write that definition).
Even Merriam-Webster issued a warning in late November: “Fascism is still our #1 lookup. Number of lookups is how we choose our Word of the Year,” they tweeted. “There’s still time to look up something else.”
In other, better news, The Association of National Advertisers chose transparency as their Word of the Year. Consumers want to do business with brands they can trust, which speaks to the heart of transparency. It’s about honesty, integrity, and a true message.
At The Found Gen, we believe in the power of words and meaningful, intentional substance. Transparency is a good start. But we’d also like to see a few more content trends take tight hold in 2017.
Until then, we’ll be here, focusing on the positive: a sharp rise in the number of people using “woke” as an alert to injustice in society, especially racism. That’ll do, 2016. That’ll do.
Because T.S. Eliot said it perfectly. “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.” We are looking forward to hearing yours. If you’d like to borrow some of ours, just contact us. We’ve got a lot of excellent words in these parts.