Each year, the preeminent English dictionaries release their word of the year — the word that was searched the most by users who were seeking its definition.
And in 2016, those words were clearly shaped by the year’s turbulent political discourse.
Dictionary.com went with ‘xenophobia,’ a term used to describe a fear of the other, and was widely used to decry populist movements in several countries that preached anti-immigrant sentiments.
Merriam-Webster, meanwhile, nearly ended up with ‘fascism,’ a type of far-right radical nationalism popularized by Hitler’s Nazi party, but a late surge allowed them to go with a much safer choice in ‘surreal.’
And Oxford’s word of the year was ‘post-truth,’ which essentially refers to a circumstance where beliefs and emotions are more likely to shape public opinion than objective facts.
Xenophobia, surreal and post-truth. Those words might as well have been stamped on a Trump podium during one of his rallies.
But anyway, the Weinblog rejects those words. Yes, I understand why they piqued people’s curiosity enough to look them up, but, anyone who has followed popular culture this year knows that there’s another word that infected our collective vocabularies more than any other.
There once was a time when that three-letter word would instantly make me think of some classic ’90s songs like “My Own Worst Enemy” or “Ziplock.” But in 2016, it took on a whole new meaning.
If you have a Facebook, or know at least one person under 25, then you have heard this word. And probably pretty recently.
Urban Dictionary defines it as “when something is turned up or popping.” In other words, it’s a slang term to describe something that is highly enjoyable, and to emphasize the intensity of that enjoyment — like a party, or your sobriety level.
You drunk bro?
Hell yeah. I’m mad lit.
Before you judge, just remember that’s it’s a marked improvement over “YOLO” and “I can’t even.”
How familiar you are with this term is definitely predicated on your age. If you’re in your late 20s, like me, it’s probably something you heard once or twice early in the year, ignored, and now began hearing it with more regularity. And now you’re just in the puzzlement stage.
And I’ll admit that as an English major and former journalist, it does bother me that each successive generation somehow ends up inventing new words. We have so many freaking words at our disposal that we can use. There are literally dozens of words to describe every single feeling, action or thing. But most people don’t make the effort to learn them.
Indeed, they’re so adverse to doing so that they simply make ones up. And when one of those words is playful and fun enough, it catches on.
Soon enough, Merriam-Webster will incorporate lit as an accepted word.
We always wonder why people from England sound so smart. It’s not just the accent. It’s because they use the correct word to describe things.
In America, we either make ones up or change the meaning of other words.
Next time we wonder why our youth is falling behind on an international level, maybe we should realize that it’s our own fault.
Because, after all … we are our own worst enemies.
Oh well. if you can’t beat them, join them. I hope all your Christmases are lit.