Dic­tionary.com chooses `ex­is­ten­tial’ as word of the year

The Saline Courier - - NEWS -

NEW YORK — Cli­mate change, gun vi­o­lence, the very na­ture of democ­racy and an angsty lit­tle movie star called Forky helped pro­pel “ex­is­ten­tial” to Dic­tionary.com’s word of the year. The choice re­flects months of high-stakes threats and crises, real and pon­dered, across the news, the world and through­out 2019.

“In our data, it speaks to this sense of grap­pling with our sur­vival, both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively, that de­fined so much of the dis­course,” said John Kelly, se­nior re­search ed­i­tor for the site, ahead of Mon­day’s an­nounce­ment.

The word earned top of mind aware­ness in sus­tained searches at Dic­tionary.com in the af­ter­math of wild­fires and Hur­ri­cane Do­rian, and mass shoot­ings in Christchur­ch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas. It also reared it­self in pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics and pop cul­ture, in­clud­ing Forky the white plas­tic spork who was the break­out star of “Toy Story 4.”

The soiled uten­sil is con­vinced his destiny is in the trash, un­til he em­braces his pur­pose as a trea­sured toy of kinder­gartener Bon­nie.

“Forky un­der­scores how this sense of grap­pling can also in­spire us to ask big ques­tions about who we are, about our pur­pose,” Kelly told The Associated Press.

Ox­ford Dic­tionar­ies picked “cli­mate emer­gency” as its word of the year, not­ing us­age ev­i­dence that re­flects the “ethos, mood, or pre­oc­cu­pa­tions of the pass­ing year,” the com­pany said in a state­ment.

Dic­tionary.com crunches lookup and other data to de­cide which word to anoint each year. The site has been pick­ing a word of the year since 2010.

Among search spikes for “ex­is­ten­tial” were those that oc­curred af­ter both Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial con­tender Bernie San­ders and 16-year-old cli­mate ac­tivist Greta Thun­berg char­ac­ter­ized cli­mate change as an “ex­is­ten­tial” cri­sis, Kelly said.

An­other spike oc­curred when former Vice Pres­i­dent

Joe Bi­den, also vy­ing for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nod, painted Pres­i­dent Donald Trump as an “ex­is­ten­tial threat” to de­cency. The word dates to 1685, de­riv­ing from Late Latin’s “ex­is­ten­tialis.” Dic­tionary.com de­fines ex­is­ten­tial as “of or re­lat­ing to ex­is­tence” and “of, re­lat­ing to, or char­ac­ter­is­tic of philo­soph­i­cal ex­is­ten­tial­ism; con­cerned with the na­ture of hu­man ex­is­tence as de­ter­mined by the in­di­vid­ual’s freely made choices.” En­ter Martin Hei­deg­ger, Karl Jaspers, Gabriel Mar­cel and Jean-paul Sartre, thinkers who molded and em­braced ex­is­ten­tial­ism, among other move­ments.

Cli­mate, guns and the im­peach­ment cri­sis for Donald Trump were just a few ar­eas that seemed to frame de­bate in ex­is­ten­tial terms. So did the Hong Kong protests, the Notre Dame fire, ten­sions be­tween the United States and China, and Big Tech’s pri­vacy and fake news prob­lems.

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