Earlier this month, Collins declared ‘fake news’ to be the word of 2017, due to its ‘ubiquitous presence’ over the past 12 months (I wonder why that is). Its usage has become so popular that the phrase will now be legitimised with a place in the next print edition of the Collins Dictionary. Feeling inspired, we at Comment asked our editors and contributors what their word of 2017 would be. Here are some of their answers.
‘Millennial’ is the word I noticed being increasingly used throughout 2017. Though it means different things to different people, for me, this word represents the generation who grew up in an electronics-filled and social-networked world.
Although many see us as the generation of hipster avocado on toast and Instagram selfies, with Time magazine describing us as ‘lazy, entitled and narcissistic’, I think that this year we have made a significant impact on politics and the world we live in.
Our generation’s views are more socialist and liberal than those that have gone before, and the most notable event for us this year was getting our voices heard in the General Election in June. As a generation, we stood together to support Jeremy Corbyn at the ballot box, as he promised to abolish tuition fees and create a fairer and more just society.
Not only have we made an impact in politics but we are having a massive impact on the environment – we are the generation of global citizens. Veganism and Vegetarianism have risen by 350% over the past decade, a movement driven by our generation. Reports show that 12% of ‘millennials’ are ‘dedicated vegetarians’ compared to only 1% of ‘baby boomers’.
In my opinion, this year has shown that we are not the lazy, pretentious hipsters we are stereotyped as, but progressive entrepreneurs. We are the ones who created Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb, and we continue to create more innovative ideas and products.
That’s why I am proud to call myself a ‘millennial’ and why it’s my word of 2017.
I spent three weeks this summer travelling around Canada, drinking in beautiful sights like the beaches of Vancouver or the glacial lakes of the Rocky Mountains. As you might expect, I took a lot of pictures for myself, but I also took a lot of pictures for other people. Instagram boyfriends – I see you.
Being the polite, obliging tourist that I am, I would position myself with the person’s camera and offer an encouraging ‘you look great’ before readying myself to snap this stranger beside some of the world’s most picturesque scenery. But just as I was preparing to do so, they would then turn their head, look into the distance, and fake laugh. What?
Although not a recent phenomenon, the ‘plandid’, or ‘planned candid’, gained notoriety in 2017, as everyone’s Instagram feeds became filled with images of beautiful young women forcibly laughing at green juice or beautiful sunsets. And the coining of the word ‘plandid’ meant that not only was it okay to post these pictures – so long as you included the #plandid hashtag to show that you were being totally self-aware and ironic – but it also has become acceptable to ask random strangers to take photographs of you like this.
Part of my problem with plandids is how predictable they are. Popular ones include: ‘Look at the way that my hair falls perfectly over my face, as I smile inexplicably at the ground’; or ‘Let’s laugh in each other’s faces at the emptiness of our existence’.
Actually, now, scrolling through my own Instagram, I am noticing a couple of candid pictures. But they were actually #candid and not #plandid. I promise.
When Collins selected ‘fake news’ as its word (or, rather, phrase) of 2017, it struck me that phrases recurring within the news media still have traction in common parlance.
I was also struck by the fact that ‘fake news’ emanated purely from the top – literally from Trump’s White House. When choosing my word of the year, I wanted one with a bottom-up route into the mainstream. ‘Woke’ is one such word.
Originating in rap music, ‘woke’ features in African-American vernacular English as an alternative to ‘awakened’. It signifies those who are ‘self-aware’ and has become associated with social justice activists in the United States who are well-attuned to racial inequalities.
The appearance of ‘woke’ was certainly contingent on specific events – namely, the coalescence of the Black Lives Matter movement after the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014.
I would argue, however, that the rise of the word reflects the growing polarisation across Western societies. Compare, for instance, ‘woke’ to the ‘red pill’ terminology emerging amongst the alt-right (a reference to 1999 classic The Matrix) to indicate those awakened to the apparent realities behind those purveyed by the mainstream media.
With both terms, a clear picture emerges of individuals accepting the beliefs of political factions in society. Both the ‘red pill’ and ‘woke’ imply a self-awareness of truths and falsehoods about the world – but both are in fact passive acts, enacted by an external party, like another activist. It is dangerous to be influenced into seeing the world in such binary paradigms.
Photograph: Marco Verch via Flickr and Creative Commons