Oxford’s word of the year is “Goblin Mode”, beats metaverse

Oxford University Press (OUP) has declared “goblin mode” its word of the year.

The organisation had opened its word of the year selection to an online vote after shortlisting “metaverse” and “#IStandWith” with the eventual winner.

According to OUP, this sparked an online campaign advocating for “goblin mode”, in part to ensure that “metaverse” does not win.

“2022 has been a year that has not only been characterized by reunion and reconnection, but also by activism, and social and political change,” it noted at the launch of the online voting.

“In recognition of this, we are opening up this year’s Oxford Word of the Year for everyone, everywhere to have their say on what word best reflects their experience of 2022.”

Oxford Languages president Casper Grathwohl said the level of engagement caught them by surprise.

“The strength of the response highlights how important our vocabulary is to understanding who we are and processing what’s happening to the world around us,” he said.

Oxford University Press defined its finalists as follows:

Goblin Mode n.
slang. A type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations; frequently in in goblin mode or go goblin mode.
metaverse n.
A (hypothetical) virtual reality environment in which users interact with one another’s avatars and their surroundings in an immersive way, sometimes posited as a potential extension of or replacement for the internet, World Wide Web, social media, etc.
Used on social media to express solidarity with a specified cause, group, person, etc.

“Given the year we’ve just experienced, ‘Goblin mode’ resonates with all of us who are feeling a little overwhelmed at this point,” said Grathwohl.

“It’s a relief to acknowledge that we’re not always the idealized, curated selves that we’re encouraged to present on our Instagram and TikTok feeds.:

Grathwohl said this had been demonstrated by the dramatic rise of platforms like BeReal, where users share images of their unedited selves, often capturing self-indulgent moments in goblin mode.

“People are embracing their inner goblin, and voters choosing ‘goblin mode’ as the Word of the Year tells us the concept is likely here to stay.”

Although first seen on Twitter in 2009, OUP said goblin mode went viral on social media in February 2022.

From there, it made its way into newspapers and magazines after being tweeted in a mocked-up headline.

The term rose in popularity as Covid lockdown restrictions eased in many countries and people ventured out of their homes more regularly.

“Seemingly, it captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to ‘normal life’, or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media,” the organisation stated.

As for “metaverse”, the first recorded use of the term in the Oxford English Dictionary dates from 1992, in the science fiction novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

Oxford said that until late 2021, there was relatively little sustained usage of the word outside specialist contexts.

By October 2022, it had increased almost fourfold from the previous year in the Oxford Corpus.

“While some of this increase can be attributed to the name change of social media conglomerate Facebook in October 2021, the concept of the ‘metaverse’, how we use it, and what it means for the future, has also been widely discussed. Words commonly occurring near ‘metaverse’ include Web3, virtual, NFT, crypto, build (as in ‘build the metaverse’), and vision (as ‘a vision of/for the metaverse’),” it stated.

Oxford University Press said the phrase “to stand with” someone, in the context of supporting them or taking their side, dates back to the 14th century.

“However, the hashtag #IStandWith emerged in the first decade of the 21st century; evidence has been found dating back to 2009.”

“Data from social media and the Oxford Corpus show that ‘#IStandWith’ and variants became significantly more frequent and prominent in March 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Frequent uses this year include #IStandWithUkraine and #StandWithUkraine.”

Oxford is not the only dictionary to have announced its word of the year. Others include:

Dictionary.com has yet to announce its word of the year.

Cambridge noted that its word-of-the-year selection (homer, short for a home run in baseball) caused a surge in traffic to its website when it was the day’s Wordle solution.

Wordle is a simple web-based game, acquired by the New York Times in 2022 for around $1 million, which asks players to guess a five-letter word in six tries.

The game indicates when you have guessed a letter correctly and if that letter is in the right spot. Letters can appear more than once.

“Homer was not the only five-letter word that saw a spike in searches in 2022,” Cambridge Dictionary said.

“[We] saw bursts of searches for many five-letter words in 2022 as the ‘Wordle effect’ took hold,” it stated.

“Among the long list of these five-letter words are humor (the American spelling of humour), and words like caulk, tacit, and bayou, which prove that short words aren’t always easy ones.”

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Oxford’s word of the year is “Goblin Mode”, beats metaverse