Sunday, January 1, 2017

From Adulting to Textalyzer, via Hygge, Lemmium and Post-Truth: the best official new words of 2016

First of all, a very Happy New Year to everyone. I hope we leave behind the mostly miserable twelve months that was 2016 and step over into the next twelve with better things to look forward to.

In one respect at least, though, 2016 was a good year. It was a good year for new words and a number of them have officially passed into the English language by being accepted into the leading dictionaries. Here are a few of my favourites.

Behaving in a responsible and mature way, particularly in regard to the accomplishment of mundane or boring tasks. Also used ironically on social media to highlight behaviour the user actually considers to be childish.

The mix of ‘Britain’ and ‘exit’ to form Brexit, but in this case to denote someone who supports the UK leaving the European Union. Follows on from ‘Grexit’ with regard to Greece’s membership of the EU.

Someone who limits their political or societal activism to signing online petitions rather than taking any real-world action.

A fear of clowns. People dressed as sinister clowns have been responsible for some serious attacks during 2016, so it's hardly surprising that this word has made the list. The word comes from the Greek kōlobatheron, meaning ‘stilt’ from kolon, ‘limb’, after the fact clowns are sometimes seen on stilts.

A song that, regardless of whether you like it or not, gets into your head and stays there, going round and round, all day. It was also the title of a short story I did for the CRIME + MUSIC anthology.

Glass cliff
I’ve found two slightly differing definitions of ‘glass cliff’. One is where a woman or member of a minority group takes up a leadership position under difficult circumstances or where the likelihood of failure is high. The other is for a woman to be selected for a leadership position because the likelihood of failure is high.

HTTP 451
An error code indicating a web page blocked by censorship or a takedown notice. In reference to Ray Bradbury’s novel FAHRENHEIT 451, it can be used by sites to make a computer-friendly political statement.

A Danish word to denote a state of happiness and contentment, usually brought about by a roaring log fire, lit candles, warm drinks, and hand-knitted socks. Pronounced something like "HUE-gah".

This was the proposed name for new volatile superheavy chemical element, 115, in honour of Lemmy Kilmister. Lemmy, who died in 2015, was the legendary frontman of heavy metal band, Motörhead. Sadly for fans, the Russians insisted on muscovium instead.

An article that takes the form of a list. (Ahem…)

Optic boom
A flash produced when electrons move faster than light, similar to the sonic boom produced by supersonic jets as the break the sound barrier. Physicists believe that it is possible to break the ‘light barrier’ in graphene sheets. The discovery could spark development of optical circuits a million times faster than silicon chips.

This word was Word of the Year 2016 according to Oxford Dictionaries, and has seen a sharp rise in popularity over the past year, despite having been in use for more than a decade. It means ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. With the various elections and referenda that have taken place during 2016, the spike in usage of post-truth is perhaps not surprising …

A merger of the prefix ‘quin’ with ‘fantastic’, used to refer to a fifty-something person who remains smart, energetic, sexy, and successful. Particularly used in relation to someone famous.

An electrode slipped into a cranial blood vessel through a catheter. By transmitting brain signals, it could allow quadriplegics to operate an exoskeleton.

A gadget that would enable the police to test your phone to see if you were texting before a car crash. As yet, though, it is not designed to gather private information, only whether the phone was in use at the time of the accident.


  1. Happy New Year, Zoe! Thanks for this fascinating list. Post-truth is the scariest situation. But for me, I am hoping that many of my age cohort will be the basis of the new word "septastic" by the end of 2017. In the meanwhile, I hope the new year is heptadecatastic for all the world (more about which from yours truly tomorrow).

    1. Thanks, Annamaria, And the same to you, m'dear.

      You will always be septastic to me, and then -- one hopes -- octastic and nonatastic as well!

    2. Hmmm.... "septastic" brings to mind something else relating to the elimination of waste... nah, you couldn't have been going THERE. [ducking and running]

  2. Happy New Year. Quintastic!!!! Wow. My new year resolution will be to live up to it ��

  3. Love all the words, Zoë, I can always count on your (spell on you?) for a Real Good Time!

    Last year (earlier this week :-), I made a typo in something I was writing, "elblow," and was so taken with it that I posted this to my Google+ account:

    This just in from The Word Factory:

    Elblow n. (1) In martial arts, a pointed strike with the mid-point of either arm. (2) The drug of choice for clueless white people who think they sound cool by adding 'El' in front of any noun. (3) When the Elbe River in Central Europe becomes impassable by boats during extended droughts.

    The Word Factory - Looking out for the sanctity of our language.

    1. Thanks, EvKa. I did the same thing a while ago while mistyping the word 'pursue' as 'persue' and discovered it is indeed a word, meaning a trail of blood. I have that one filed away for later use ...

  4. I love "your" new words. I understand them and may even use them...not sure which of those alternatives is more frightening. All that I know is five minutes ago I finally finished a polished draft of Kaldis #9 and feel as if a stentrode has just been textalized up my quintastic, to put it in an adulting sort of way. Big Hygges to you, my love, for 2017 and far, far beyond.

    1. Huge Hygges to you and yours, also, Jeff, and many congratulations on finishing your Polish edition :-)