In recent news, Oxford Dictionaries has named toxic as its Word of 2018.
Seriously? Toxic has been very popular (e.g., toxic masculinity) for some years now. I think there are better choices. Here are three:
IMPACTFUL. The weakness of this candidate for Word of the Year is that, like toxic, it’s been around for some time. But it ballooned in 2018. What did we say before everything became impactful? Consequential? Influential? I can’t remember. I do recall that English speakers, once upon a time, would comment that a given action or phenomenon would have an impact, or even have a great impact. But we won’t make room any longer for an entire phrase to express that idea when we can go with one word, or two at most (very impactful). English’s evolutionary trend is generally toward compactness (and thus, you could argue, impactfulness), although experts might argue that the product in this case is garbage.
CURATED. In the past year, suddenly nothing is selected or chosen. That isn’t special enough. Things now are curated. A word that once applied specifically to museums and art exhibits now is used in reference to all kinds of mundane objects and experiences. A display of frames at Joann Fabrics urged me to “curate my life,” something we are all said to do on Facebook. Recently I saw an ad for a packaged assortment of fancy cheeses, which, readers were told, had been carefully curated. You can charge more for that; carefully selected cheeses are, one presumes, more plebeian than those that are curated.
OPTICS. Whoa! I’m putting this out here big and bold without even considering the optics of having chosen this word. Optics hit the major leagues in 2018. Suddenly it’s all over the place in a non-physics sense. No word that I’m aware of has ever tried harder to achieve Word of the Year status. (The fact that it didn’t—well, the optics of that are problematic.) No news pundit any longer speaks of how something looks, or whether it has a damaging appearance. Rather, they ask people to comment on the optics of a given situation, invariably when something looks inappropriate, unfortunate, or positively (negatively?) terrible.
So, Oxford Dictionaries, move over. This blog is too late with its candidates to be impactful, but its opinions are carefully curated. Against all odds, I’m confident that only readers who indulge in toxic criticism will disdain them.