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Oxford University Press Announces its Word of the Year

By Megan Whitlock


Oxford University Press has announced that “goblin mode” will be its word of the year for 2022, after opening the vote up to the public for the first time since the tradition began.


The final three words shortlisted for this year included “metaverse,” referring to Facebook’s virtual reality and our increasingly online world, “#IStandWith,” chosen to reflect this period of increasing activism and political division, and “Goblin Mode,” which the press defined as “a phrase used to reject returning ‘back to normal’ as we emerged from worldwide lockdowns.” “Goblin mode” dominated the polls, eventually taking 93% of the overall vote (in which more than 340,000 members of the public participated).


According to Oxford Languages, the candidates for word of the year are selected using a variety of extensive language research programs (including the Oxford English Corpus), software used by expert lexicographers, dictionary editors flagging words for consideration, as well as general suggestions sent via social media and by the public. The aim is to find a word that summarises the general mood, attitudes and realities of the public over the last twelve months – although the word itself can be older. Notable recent words of the year have included “vax” (2021), “climate emergency” (2019), “post-truth” (2016) and the laughing emoji in 2015.


As part of the official announcement, Oxford University Press defined “Goblin mode” as “a slang term, often used in the expressions ‘in goblin mode’ or ‘to go goblin mode’.“ “Goblin mode” is “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” The press pinpoints the phrase as being first seen on Twitter back in 2009, however, it gained prominence in early 2022 after featuring in a photoshopped headline concerning Julia Fox’s breakup from Kanye West (he didn’t like it when she went “goblin mode.”)


The academic publisher has reflected on how the term may be relatable to those struggling with the post-pandemic “return to normalcy” and has suggested that it has taken on a new meaning as a phrase that represents rejecting societal norms in the aftermath of a difficult few years.


Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Languages, is quoted on the Oxford Languages website as saying: “We were hoping the public would enjoy being brought into the process, but this level of engagement with the campaign caught us totally by surprise. The strength of the response highlights how important our vocabulary is to understanding who we are and processing what’s happening to the world around us. Given the year we’ve just experienced, “goblin mode” resonates with all of us who are feeling a little overwhelmed at this point. It’s a relief to acknowledge that we’re not always the idealized, curated selves that we’re encouraged to present on our ... feeds.”


Read more about the Oxford Word of the Year 2022 here.

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