I thought dictionaries were apolitical. Unfortunately, some have assumed a decidedly leftist tilt that I failed to realize until recently.
Since I make my living as a writer and writing teacher, I, like many others, see words as a critical part of our democracy. The proper use of words can be enlightening; the misuse of them can be extremely damaging. Sometimes words can be particularly toxic.
In a year when Trumpism, fake news, and myriad conservative terms held sway throughout the world, I am trying not to sound conspiratorial. But the dictionaries chose some liberal words to proclaim as the words of 2017. Merriam-Webster chose “feminism.” Dictionary.com went with “complicit,” while the Cambridge Dictionary anointed “populism.” These choices seem troubling, but Oxford Dictionaries went with something else worse: “youthquake.”
I am happy to say I have never heard someone use youthquake, which is defined as a “significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.”
Former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland apparently coined “youthquake” in the 1960s to describe the youth culture of London back then. The word fell out of favor until this year when its use increased dramatically, according to an analysis of the Oxford English Corpus, which collects roughly 150 million words of spoken and written English from various sources.
The use of the word surged first in coverage of the British parliamentary elections in June before spreading to political commentary to the United States and elsewhere.
Youthquake triumphed over a politically leftist list that included “Antifa,” “broflake,” “kompromat,” “white fragility,” and “Milkshake Duck.”
Broflake is an attack against conservatives who use snowflake to describe leftists.
Kompromat is based on a Russian word, which means compromising information collected for use in blackmailing, discrediting, or manipulating someone, typically for political purposes.
According to Oxford, kompromat has been used in English since about 1990. Until recently, it was entirely unfamiliar to most English speakers. That all changed when the word arose in connection with an error-ridden file about President Trump.
I am still not certain what Milkshake Duck means despite some research. Here is DaTimes: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/27/arts/milkshake-duck-meme.html
I’d like to suggest a word for next year. Well, actually two: post turtle.
A post turtle, which is a synonym for a politician, is when you see a turtle sitting on top of a fence post. You know he didn’t get up there by himself. He doesn’t belong up there. He doesn’t know what to do up there. He’s elevated beyond his ability to function. And you wonder what kind of dumbass put him up there to begin with.
Words count. When basic research tools like dictionaries become politically slanted, it provides a hidden ideological training ground for the left.
That’s why it is fascinating how the left has gone ballistic about the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate certain words from budget documents of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These words include “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” and “fetus.”
Trump may not have won the battle of the dictionaries, but the elimination of these politically packed words with more neutral ones is far more important.