Word Nerd: Top 10 words and phrases of 2017

18 Dec

It’s been quite a year for words, hasn’t it? Here are our top 10 words and phrases of the year. Let us know what’s missing from the list!

10. Fidget spinner

This was the year when this toy became a global industry. Contrary to some manufacturers’ claims, there is no scientific evidence that fidget spinners help people who suffer from autism or ADHD. Indeed, many schools in the US have banned them, saying they are a distraction for students. Anyway, it doesn’t look as if fidget spinners are about to go away any time soon.

Lesson learned: People fidget.


9. Cash me ousside how bow dah

In late 2016, Florida teen Danielle Bregoli and her mother appeared on the Dr. Phil television show, to discuss Bregoli’s unruly behavior, which included stealing a crew member’s car while the episode was being filmed. When the audience laughed at her, she responded by saying, “Catch me outside, how about that!”. But it sounded like “Cash me ousside how bow dah”, and it went viral. It inspired the single below by DJ Suede The Remix God, which hit the Billboard charts in March 2017. Since then, Bregoli has released several singles on the Atlantic label. Talk about cashing in!

Lesson learned: You can add a beat to literally anything and sell it.


8. Covfefe

On May 31, Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States of America and the supposed leader of the free world, sent out a seemingly nonsensical tweet. It immediately went viral and inspired comedians worldwide. In about five hours, Trump deleted the tweet and asked Twitter followers what they thought “covfefe” meant. Later that day, a spokesman told journalists “the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant”, but offered no further explanation. Some speculated that the tweet was a tactic to divert attention from serious controversies. Two weeks later, a draft legislation was filed, titled the “Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement (COVFEFE) Act”, which sought to amend the Presidential Records Act so that social media posts by the US president would be preserved under law.

Lesson learned: No amount of covfefe can stop the constant negative press.


7. Cultural appropriation

Each year, the Victoria’s Secret fashion show features different themes. This year, a segment titled “Nomadic Adventure” showcased looks that seemed “inspired” by tribal and Native American dress, spurring accusations of cultural appropriation. This is a sociological concept that refers to the unequal relationship between the colonizers and colonized (or formerly colonized) people. Many regard cultural appropriation as the dominant culture violating the intellectual property rights of the marginalized, and often stripping the meaning of an artifact or practice. Of course, cultural appropriation has been around for as many centuries as colonization. Shockingly, it’s still a thing in 2017.

Lesson learned: As Canadian radio host Rosanna Deerchild says in the video, “If it is about us, then it must include us.”


6. Ethereum

This is an open-source, public, blockchain-based computing platform that enables smart contracts, or deterministic mechanisms for direct transaction of value between untrusted agents. The platform also provides “Ether”, a cryptocurrency that is a rival to Bitcoin, and “Gas”, an internal transaction pricing mechanism. The system went live in 2015, but this year, growing interest in the Ethereum platform sent its exchange rate rocketing. The price rose more than 50 times this year, and in November it shot up by more than 16% in just 24 hours.

Lesson learned: As Pink Floyd sang in 1973, “Money – it’s a gas! Grab that cash with both hands and make your stash.”


5. Fake news

This type of propaganda, which deliberately misinforms its audience, has been around for ages. In 18th-century France, for example, intense attacks via political pamphlets known as libelles (the word comes from the Latin for ‘little book’) helped undermine the monarch’s authority and spurred the French Revolution. In our time, higher literacy rates, the internet, and social media have multiplied the power of the pre-industrial printed pamphlets by millions of times. As a result, even experienced, professional fact-checkers are not immune. Fake news often uses sensational headlines, and even entirely fabricated stories, to increase readership, sharing, internet revenue, and polarize opinion. Fake news undermines actual journalism, and makes it harder for journalists to cover significant stories.

Lesson learned: Don’t believe everything on the internet or TV – especially if it makes you feel outraged.


4. Anthropocene

Our species is having an unprecedented and alarming impact on the planet’s geology and ecosystems. This is why many scientists are calling our epoch the Anthropocene. The Greek word anthropos means human being, and –cene comes from the Greek kainos, meaning new. An epoch is a subdivision of geological time, and “Anthropocene” follows the pattern of Holocene, Pleistocene, and Eocene. The International Commission on Stratigraphy and the International Union of Geological Sciences have not officially recognized the term “Anthropocene”, but the Working Group on the Anthropocene has formally designated the epoch and sent a recommendation to the International Geological Congress.

Lesson learned: Reduce, reuse, recycle. In that order.


3. Brexit

This is the popular term for the UK’s ‘divorce’ from the European Union. In 2016, 51.9% of voters in a leave-or-stay referendum supported leaving. Negotiations with the EU on Britain’s exit formally began in June 2017, and the UK will leave in March 2019. The UK joined the European Communities in 1973, confirming its membership in a referendum in 1975. Economists and analysts broadly agree that Brexit will hurt the UK’s real per-capita income. Studies show that Brexit has already cost the average British household £404 a year, and the GDP 1.3%. Brexit may curb immigration into the UK, and could hurt UK higher education and academic research.

Lesson learned: Most people do not understand economics.


2. Woke

The Merriam-Webster dictionary added this word in 2017. It’s a slang term that seems to be making its way into mainstream English from African-American usage: “I was sleeping, but now I’m woke.” Today the word has taken on a political sense, possibly starting with the 2008 release of the song “Master Teacher” by Erykah Badu. To stay woke means to be aware, be self-aware, and question everything.

Lesson learned: Being woke is just the beginning (please watch the video above!)


1. #MeToo

In 1997, American activist Tarana Burke heard a horrific story of child sexual abuse and launched the Me Too movement. Twenty years later, on October 5 this year, the first allegations of sexual harassment against powerful Hollywood producer and Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein made headlines. Ten days later, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment or assault to tweet #MeToo, and within 24 hours, more than half a million tweets and 12 million Facebook posts went up, telling harrowing stories of harassment, abuse, and rape. By early November, #MeToo had been tweeted more than 2.3 million times in 85 countries, and shared in over 77 million Facebook posts or comments. Speakers of other languages used equivalents such as #BalanceTonPorc in French and #YoTambien in Spanish. Since then many famous men have lost their positions of power and prestige, including actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K., chef Mario Batali, and TV host Matt Lauer. In India, too, an online list that named and shamed alleged abusers in academia spurred heated debate.

Lesson learned: Sexual harassers beware!


By: Uma Asher

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