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New words in the English language and “goblin mode”

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Have you heard the new Word of the Year, “Goblin-mode”? It is more likely that you have if you spend a lot of time online. Anyway, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has chosen “goblin mode” for its Word of the Year for 2022. It beats “#Istandwith” and “Metaverse” in a poll of more than 300,000 people. I think Goblin-mode probably won because it makes you smile, and people will warm to that after a year that has brought us war, financial crisis and shortages. And what does “Goblin-mode” mean? It describes a state of mind displaying unapologetically slovenly, self-indulgent behaviour or behaviour that rejects social norms. Maybe this has something to do with the post-Covid time we’re living through, and how some people are reluctant to leave lock-down.

It’s interesting to follow new words in our language because they mirror the changes in our conversations. I am fascinated to learn that the English language has over 600,000 words, and that the OED has added 650 new ones in its latest update. These new words include “influencer” and “side-hustle”.

The Word of the Year is awarded to a new word that reflects the feeling or Zeitgeist of its time. This is why the OED chose “VAX” for their Word of the Year for 2021. The OED is not the only dictionary celebrating new words; Collins Dictionary does the same, and they chose “permacrisis” for 2022. It’s a neat word reflecting the extended period of challenges we experienced during the year.

Where do new words come from?

I think that most new words are coined by journalists and copywriters who make them up to describe a new feeling or topic where no word exists. Then, if enough people read and repeat the new word, it moves into common use and enters the English language. It will take a little longer to arrive in the dictionaries and spell-checkers.

Here are a few more words that have recently appeared in English: cryptocurrency, deepfake and crowdfunding. All of these relate to new technologies and how they impact our lives. Others, such as gig-worker, lavender ceiling (obstacle to the promotion of LGBTQ+ people), shrinkflation and decarbonise reflect our latest activities and concerns.  Social media is a fertile breeding ground for new words. it has given us inventions like “deplatform” and “sock puppet” (a false identity online). When you start to look, you realise that America and the UK are using different new words. Some of them will become permanent in the language but others may disappear as quickly as they arrived.

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