If you think about the state of humanity and our future on the planet, there’s just one adjective that tidily sums it all up. That word is “toxic,” and the Oxford Dictionary has chosen it as the word of the year. This year, you could apply the word to the environment, the political debate, the discourse over masculinity, the rise of overt racism, office culture, dog food, almost anything, really.
Meanwhile, Dictionary.com chose an equally apt word, “misinformation,” which it defines as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” In other words, that favorite new expletive, Fake News!
Not to be outdone, Merriam-Webster opted for a word that is both slightly more hopeful and incredibly frustrating: “justice.” The dictionary claims it was one of the most looked-up words throughout the year, marking a 74% rise in people looking to define the word compared to 2017. Were those people wondering about justice while watching Christine Blasey Ford testify against now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh?
Or hoping for a particular outcome in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election? Or Colin Kaepernick being ousted from the NFL for a silent protest? Or the investigation into the police officer who walked into the wrong apartment and killed a man sitting in his own home? Or the thousands of children (almost 15,000 at last count) taken from their parents and shoved into camps by the U.S. border patrol?
Sadly, “toxic justice” pretty much sums up 2018. Let’s hope the world—and the dictionaries—has something better in store for 2019.