Oxford Dictionaries Names ‘Toxic’ 2018’s Word of the Year

Britney fans rejoice – Oxford Dictionaries have announced that ‘toxic‘ is their Word of the Year for 2018.

Oxford defines the adjective toxic as: “Poisonous; relating to or caused by poison; very bad, unpleasant, or harmful”.

On how they choose their Word of the Year, Oxford Dictionaries say:

“The Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that we can see has attracted a great deal of interest over the last 12 months. Every year, candidates for Word of the Year are debated and one is eventually chosen that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.”

This word doesn’t necessarily have to have been coined within the past twelve months, however it does need to have had greater significance in that time.

2018 saw the word ‘toxic’ used under two main, notable circumstances.

In its more literal sense, ‘toxic’ was used frequently in discussions about the environment. There has been an increased focus on climate change this year; phrases such as ‘toxic waste’, ‘toxic air’, ‘plastic toxicity’ and ‘toxic gases’ often feature heavily in these discussions.

However, the word ‘toxic’ has taken on a new form, too. Interpersonal relationships, and environments such as workplaces, might now be described as ‘toxic’ if they have an overwhelmingly negative impact on others. ‘Toxic masculinity’ came under fire, in light of the #MeToo movement, while many social media platforms were vilified for their ‘toxic’ impact on mental health.

Other words which made the shortlist, but not the final cut, included:

Big Dick Energy (BDE): An attitude of understated and casual confidence.

Gammon: Typically used in the UK as a derogatory term for an older middle-class white man whose face becomes flushed due to anger when expressing political (typically right-wing) opinions.

Incel: Incel, short for ‘involuntarily celibate’, is used as a self-descriptor by members of an online subculture who typically deem themselves chronically unable to attract romantic or sexual partners. They hold views that are hostile towards to women and to men who are sexually active.

On Oxford’s choice, Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries, said:

“Reviewing this year in language we repeatedly encountered the word ‘toxic’ being used to describe an increasing set of conditions that we’re all facing. Qualifying everything from the entrenched patriarchy to the constant blare of polarizing political rhetoric, ‘toxic’ seems to reflect a growing sense of how extreme, and at times radioactive, we feel aspects of modern life have become.”

Megan Cummings, News Editor

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