Language isn’t stagnant. It evolves, it shifts, it blooms, it rolly-pollies differently each day. This is why The Latch doesn’t write about Vegemite coins or lettuce shortages like bombastic Shakespeare characters, as entertaining as that would be.
Moreover, the words we invent or redefine tell us something about who we are. Therefore, to lose the words that slapped in 2022 would be a great loss indeed.
Which brings us to the dictionaries. Every 12 months, these organisations try to preserve a massive cultural moment by dropping a word of the year. If a dictionary has done its job right, its word of the year will truly reflect how the zeitgeist and the English language has changed.
So, with all of this in mind, how did the dictionaries do this year? Did they capture the spirit of 2022? Or did they bomb hard? Well, I reviewed each dictionaries’ Word of the Year, and here’s how these word historians went:
Gaslighting — Merriam-Webster
Gaslighting: The psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time. This causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories. It also typically leads to confusion, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, dependency on the perpetrator, and a loss of confidence and self-esteem.
Well, that was gaslighting’s primary definition in the 20th Century. But in the last few years, the definition has become flatter and broader.
Merriam-Webster says gaslighting now also refers to “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for a personal advantage.”
This dictionary stated that gaslighting should be the word of the year because the search for it increased by 1740% in less than 12 months.
“In recent years, with the vast increase in channels and technologies used to mislead, gaslighting has become the favoured word for the perception of deception. This is why it has earned its place as our Word of the Year,” said Merriam-Webster.
However, while gaslighting is a popular word, I’m personally not sure that it’s word of the year material. This is because it was being used in a colloquial, sometimes jokey way since before 2022 rolled around. For instance, Teen Vogue published an article called Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America all the way back in 2016.
For this reason, I’m giving the word “gaslighting” a light 6/10.
Permacrisis — Collins Dictionary
Permacrisis: An extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events.
Unfortunately, Collins Dictionary’s Word of the Year is a bit brilliant. This is because it feels like this year humanity has Tarzan-swung from crisis to crisis to crisis. In 2022, COVID hung around, Russia illegally invaded Ukraine, and climate change is still a gnarly timebomb.
“2022’s Word of the Year is permacrisis, a term that perfectly embodies the dizzying sense of lurching from one unprecedented event to another, as we wonder bleakly what new horrors might be around the corner,” said the author David Shariatmadari, on behalf of Collins Dictionary.
However, this word of the year isn’t perfect. Namely, some points will have to be deducted for the fact that nobody’s really using permacrisis in a colloquial setting. This word hasn’t taken over the zeitgeist.
In summation, it makes a tonne of sense that Collins Dictionary chose permacrisis as its word of the year. While it stumbles short of being a knockout, it also tells a pretty intoxicating narrative. I give the word “permacrisis” a mid 7/10.
Homer — Cambridge Dictionary
Homer: Short for a home run. It’s a point scored in baseball when you hit the ball, usually out of the playing field, and are able to run around all the bases at one time to the starting base.
Cambridge Dictionary chose homer as its Word of the Year because 65,000 searched it up back on May 5. This surge of popularity happened due to the word being used in the smash-hit game Wordle.
“This informal American English term for a home run in baseball left players of Wordle who were not familiar with the word feeling confused and frustrated. Tens of thousands of these Wordle players took to the Cambridge Dictionary to understand the meaning of the word homer,” said the Cambridge Dictionary.
Nevertheless, I think that this is a garbage word of the year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great word of the day. It’s even a decent word of the week. But all homer means in this context is that a lot of people liked Wordle.
I give the word “homer” a mid 4/10.
Teal — The Macquarie Dictionary
Teal: A small wild duck or a dark greenish-blue colour.
Now, obviously the folks at the Macquarie Dictionary have a different definition of teal in mind for its Word of the Year. Instead of championing a bird or a shade of blue, this organisation has opted to discuss the wave of independents that dominated the 2022 federal election.
The Macquarie Dictionary has defined teal as “an independent political candidate who holds generally ideologically moderate views, but who supports strong action regarding environmental and climate action policies, and the prioritising of integrity in politics.”
These candidates are called teals, as a lot of them used the colour teal in their electoral material.
“Teal embodies the year that’s been,” said the Macquarie Dictionary’s committee.
“It’s hard to go past teal as an emblem of Australia’s political landscape in 2022. It’s not a brand-new word, but it is a brand-new sense that no one saw coming.”
So, how does the word teal stack up? Well, the federal teal candidates have drastically transformed the federal political landscape. In the 2022 federal election, the teals won a total of nine seats. This has caused some to wonder if the two-party battle between the Liberals and Labor is over.
Nevertheless, teal candidates haven’t made any big waves since then. This can be demonstrated in the fact that no independents are yet to win a seat in the 2022 Victorian state election.
This is a bit of a nitpick though, as the teal wave back in May’s federal election was massive. I, therefore, give the word “teal” a strong 8/10.