REFLECTING OUR ‘TOXIC’ TIMES
It’s that time of year again when new words begin to be added to prominent dictionaries and votes are cast for the word of the year.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, their word of the year is ‘Toxic’. Runners-up were ‘gaslighting’ which means to try and mentally manipulate someone into thinking that they are unstable and ‘techlash’, a word coined by economists to refer to how the public and other groups are lashing back at large tech companies, like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, for their supposed omnipotent power over our opinions, our data and our privacy.
The words of the year for 2017 were ‘youthquake’ which essentially refers to the way young people are increasingly Inluencing today’s Culture, values AND even politics. The previous year, 2016, the word of the year was ‘post-truth’. THIS Is A term used speciically In politics where a politician tries to frame his audience’s opinion using their emotions and fears as opposed to facts.
Now the traditional meaning of toxic is a substance or chemical that is physically harmful or dangerous to the human body when ingested, inhaled or injected or to the environment when released into it.
But in everyday language it has acquired a metaphorical meaning in that if a person is being toxic he is saying or doing things that are unpleasant, hurtful or hateful. Moreover, it is these actions that then go on to create a toxic environment which is an atmosphere that creates a great deal of discontent to those in it or around it.
Therefore, it has the traditional as well as the new metaphorical meaning.
The latter has been highlighted in the #Metoo movement. For example, it stressed how men’s supposed masculinity and power, and how they use it to their advantage, is toxic towards women and even some men. Indeed it was used to describe anyone with more power (physical, managerial or political) over another individual regardless of their gender or race. For example, someone just basically acting like a jerk could be toxic to the environment in which he is doing it.
The word has also been extensively used when referring to the new political environment in which many people In THE West ind themselves. For example, use of political rhetoric to incite violence or to churn out voters based on incorrect information or policies based on untruths, or to incite hatred or distrust of certain members of the community, can be described as toxic. Moreover, the word toxic and environment can be used in the same sentence and not have anything to do with our physical environment. It simply means the negatively charged atmosphere created by someone who wishes to enhance his or her agenda, be it political, social or business.
But THE word snowlake Is not A new addition but it has now acquired An ADDITIONAL MEANING. A snowlake is one of the most stunning creations In THE world. No two lakes ARE ALIKE and, when seen under a microscope, they are the most beautifully formed and symmetrical ice crystals known to man. In fact, for years, the term was used to describe children who were exceptional in many ways, and parents welcomed it as a compliment. But in today’s politically charged social media world, the word has actually become an insult. It is often used by conservatives to describe liberals with whose views they disagree. In general terms, it means a whiny individual who thinks they are entitled and always right.
You notice how every year new words are created simply because someone says it often enough. For example, the phrase ‘fake news’ became an everyday word during the 2016 United States election. Since then it has been used so often by various people around the world that it has now become an accepted term. But the problem is that when a person calls a media outlet, or a news report, fake news it is almost always being used to describe news they do not like, even though it may be 100 per cent true.
Other new words making their way into the dictionaries is the very popular term Alt-right used to describe someone or a group with extremely conservative and right-wing views. The opposing term is alt-left but generally that term is not really used in everyday language.
You might also remember the very irst time THE phrase ‘Alternative FACTS’ was used implying that two opposing facts can be true at the same time, but we all know that’s not the case.