Woty! or wopoty?
THE END of 2017 saw lexicographers and linguists coming out, as usual, with the WOTY of their choice. As language loonies and lenguanatics know, that acronym stands for Word of the Year, a term that has been used in reference not just to a single word but also to a phrase, an expression, and even an emoji.
The choice of more than one word as WOTY, however, has occasionally triggered negative comments on the Internet. The Australian Macquarie Dictionary’s choice of milkshake duck as its WOTY 2017, for instance, got this reaction from one blog commenter: “It is a ‘term’ or a ‘phrase.’ It is not a word.” Another commenter seconded: “it is quite obviously *two* words.”
So maybe it’s time to replace WOTY with a more appropriate term? How about WOPOTY—Word or Phrase of the Year?
Will commenters and commentators give El Lenguador a thumb’s up for that inspired coinage? Maybe not. So let’s get back to WOTY. Let’s take a look at some of the 2017 WOTY.
The American Merriam-Webster dictionary chose defined as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” The word, already in use in the 19th century, enjoyed a spike in dictionary lookups after the January 2017 women’s march on Washington, D.C., and after Hollywood stars came out to expose the sexual harassment that they had gone through in the past—a coming-out now known as the #MeToo movement.
The British Oxford Dictionaries went for defined as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.” According to the Oxford website, the word was originally coined by Vogue magazine editor in chief Diana Vreeland “to describe the youth-led fashion and music movement of the swinging Sixties,” and it “has been resurrected with a new meaning, now referring to the political awakening of the oft-maligned millennial generation.”
The earlier mentioned Macquarie Dictionary phrase may be new to Pinoys:
defined as “a person who is initially viewed positively by the media but is then discovered to have something questionable about them which causes a sharp decline in their popularity.” The term originated from a 2016 tweet by a certain @pixelatedboat: “The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! *5 seconds later* We regret to Two National Artists— Bienvenido Lumbera for Literature (left) and Benedicto “Bencab” Cabrera for Visual Arts—attended the event. Not in photo but likewise in attendance was a third National Artist, F. Sionil Jose for Literature. Their presence was acknowledged during the pre-screening program. inform you the duck is racist.”
Macquarie and other Google sources don’t mention this, but El Lenguador notes that U.S. President Donald Trump, who has the same first name as the cartoon character Donald Duck, is reportedly a fan of the McDonald’s fast-food chain, and his “typical order,” according to the British daily newspaper The Guardian, is “two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fishes and a chocolate milkshake.” He has also been denounced as a racist because he wants to ban immigrants from Muslim and Third World countries.
And here’s the choice of three different groups, the American Dialect Society (ADS), the British Collins Dictionary, and the News on the Web Corpus: The term is defined by Collins as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting” and by ADS as “disinformation or falsehoods presented as real news or actual news that is claimed to be untrue.”
Fake news, according to Mignon Fogarty, who runs the Grammar Girl blog, is “the clear winner in the word-of-the-year follies.”
(With this column, appearing in the last issue of YES!, El Lenguador bids farewell to what remains of the showbiz lenguanatic brigade. Goodbye, adios, paalam, babayu!)