Reflecting on Word of the Year 2016

What Mel Did - Word of the Year 2016
Image credit: Melinda Fargo

What hit my radar this week? Well, I was disappointed to learn that the word of the year, according to Dictionary.com, is ‘Xenophobia.’ The word means the fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.

That said, I was saddened but not surprised ever since the Brexit debacle, where pride in Britain was embroiled with racism and vitriol towards foreign movement across our border. I still believe some complicated economic messages were translated into simple and, yes, xenophobic, headlines by those charged with informing (rather than inciting) the public. In explaining its decision to make ‘Xenophobia’ its word of 2016, Dictionary.com explained that “some of the most prominent news stories centred around fear of the ‘other.’

In a multi-cultural society, the rise of violence against migrants and ‘others’ since that Brexit vote has been sickening and shameful.

Unsafe reporting also ignored the many stand-up people who voted to leave the European Union in a spirit of pro-Britain – not antagonism towards people of a different culture, colour or race.

The case for ‘Xenophobia’ as word of the year was of course also strengthened by Donald Trump and the 2016 US election. That election did not bathe many in glory and migrated us several steps back from the understanding and tolerance of all peoples. It is telling that the word of the year 2015 was ‘Identity.’ Could one infer that the rise of xenophobia in the West is partly a reaction to identity politics?

On a personal note, my word for 2016 would be ‘Surprising.’ My pick is based on a surprise illness during the year and a series of fortunate and unfortunate events. My choice also incorporates a world where Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America in 2016.

I wonder what the word will be next year if dictionaries continue to be influenced by world politics. Is it too much to hope that ‘Tolerance’ will surprise us and make it as word of the year 2017? I’ll pray not.

Published on The Eastern Daily Press 28 December 2017

 

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