'Brexit' has been named as dictionary publisher Collins' Word of the Year 2016.
First recorded by Collins in 2013, the word has seen an "unprecedented upsurge" of over 3,400% this year – a level of increase unheard of since Collins began monitoring word usage – as the UK headed towards its historic referendum and continues to come to grips with its aftermath. As defined by Collins, ‘Brexit’ means “the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”.
Helen Newstead, head of language content at Collins, said: “‘Brexit’ is arguably politics’ most important contribution to the English language in over 40 years, since the Watergate scandal gave commentators and comedians the suffix ‘-gate’ to make any incident or scandal infinitely more compelling. ‘Brexit’ is proving even more useful and adaptable.”
Two other inclusions in Collins’ list of Words of the Year (full list below) are ‘throw shade’ and ‘mic drop’. ‘Throw shade’ is a phrase made popular in gay communities in late 1980s America to mean a subtle but public insult. ‘Mic drop’ meanwhile is used to underline a point and indicate that further discussion is unnecessary by the mere act of pretending to drop a microphone after speaking.
A possible successor to US president Barack Obama has helped add another word to the list– ‘Trumpism’, referring to the policies and more controversial pronouncements of the US Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Newstead said: “Trump is not the first politician to have had his name co-opted by language: ‘Thatcherism’ and ‘Reaganomics’ for example. However, the longevity of ‘Trumpism’ as a word may depend on his success in the forthcoming election.”
Several words on the list are linked by a recent cultural trend to reject current and entrenched social and political norms. For instance, ‘snowflake generation’ describes the young adults of the 2010s who are seen by some as less resilient and more prone to finding offence than their predecessors and who are not afraid to voice their opinions to the establishment. People are also enjoying the Danish concept of ‘hygge’, a form of cosiness rooted in community and tradition, and celebrating ‘JOMO’ a.k.a the “joy of missing out” felt when one decides to pass up a social occasion. This trend towards home comforts may also help explain the rise of ‘dude food’, a term engendered by the popularity of cuisine considered particularly appealing to men, such as barbeque, burgers and hot dogs.
The ‘snowflake generation’ may be the last to have avoided suffering from ‘sharenting’, the social-media practice whereby proud parents share their children’s every achievement with as wide an audience as possible, but they are very likely to experience the final word on Collins’ list: ‘uberisation’. “The taxi-sharing app is used worldwide and has made the simple act of hiring a cab both modern and even more direct,” said Newstead. “Its success has of course bred many imitators and now any modernisation that threatens the status quo will inevitably be defined as ‘uberisation’.”
Brexit was added to the current print edition of Collins Dictionary this year and will sit between ‘Brewster’ and ‘brey’. All other words and their definitions will appear in Collinsdictionary.com.
Collins’ Words of the Year, plus definitions
Brexit (ˈbrɛɡzɪt) noun: the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union
dude food (ˈduːd ˌfuːd) noun: junk food such as hot dogs, burgers, etc considered particularly appealing to men
hygge (ˈhyɡə) noun: a concept, originating in Denmark, of creating cosy and convivial atmospheres that promote wellbeing
JOMO (ˈdʒəʊməʊ) noun acronym joy of missing out: pleasure gained from enjoying one’s current activities without worrying that other people are having more fun
mic drop (ˈmaɪk ˌdrɒp) noun: a theatrical gesture in which a person drops (or imitates the action of dropping) a hand-held microphone to the ground as the finale to a speech or performance
sharenting (ˈʃɛərəntɪŋ) noun: the habitual use of social media to share news, images, etc of one’s children
snowflake generation (ˈsnəʊfleɪk dʒɛnəˌreɪʃən) noun: the young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations
throw shade (ˌθrəʊ ˈʃeɪd) verb: to make a public show of contempt for someone or something, often in a subtle or non-verbal manner
Trumpism (ˈtrʌmpɪzəm) noun: (1) the policies advocated by the US politician Donald Trump, especially those involving a rejection of the current political establishment and the vigorous pursuit of American national interests (2) a controversial or outrageous statement attributed to Donald Trump
uberization (ˌuːbəraɪˈzeɪʃən) noun: the adoption of a business model in which services are offered on demand through direct contact between a customer and supplier, usually via mobile technology