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The good, the bad, and the cringe: 2022 additions to the Oxford English Dictionary

Language is always changing. Words and expressions are constantly being invented or redefined to describe new phenomena or changing attitudes, and dictionaries gradually register these shifts. Take ‘goblin mode’, which was selected as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)’s Word of the Year by popular vote. It refers to ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations’ – think snacking on junk food in sweatpants while binge-watching reality shows on Netflix. The term went viral in 2022, which is not surprising after three years spent mostly shuttered at home due to the pandemic!

‘Goblin mode’ wasn’t the only expression that captured our collective weariness and angst. 2022 brought a wave of new stress-related entries, including ‘stress disorder, ‘stress reliever’, ‘stress-eat’, and ‘stress bunny’ (someone who is stressed or prone to stress).

The OED has also added the adverb ‘annoyedly, as in ‘Sally annoyedly launched Zoom to join her fifth meeting of the day.’ All this screentime has really messed with Sally’s sleep schedule, which is why she has ‘panda eyes’.

Infinite scroll

Many new terms reflect our increasingly online social lives. ‘Sharenting’, a portmanteau of ‘sharing’ and ‘parenting’, is used to describe people who zealously post about their children on social media (you know the type). Apropos of online oversharers, ‘cringe factor’ means ‘an element or aspect of a situation, event, etc., that causes a person to cringe with acute embarrassment or awkwardness.’

Working hard or hardly working?

In the world of work, ‘influencer’ has finally earned its place on the OED pages: meaning one who makes use of their internet fame to peddle goods and services on social media, often for monetary gain. Those who generate income through jobs outside of their primary occupation have ‘side hustles’. If you’re savvy enough, you can turn your side hustle into your main hustle – that’ll make you the ‘top banana’ at your own company. (Psst, we have tips for starting your own freelance copywriting business.)

Another rather pleasing addition to the OED is ‘first gentleman’, the male partner of a president or other leader, which acknowledges that people besides straight men can be leaders. About time!

Climate action

Climate change is the crisis of our time, and our responses require new vocabulary. ‘Decarbonizing’ – cutting fossil fuel use in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions – will help us avoid exceeding our ‘carbon budget’, which is ‘the maximum amount of carbon (typically expressed in terms of the equivalent in tons of carbon dioxide) that can be released into the atmosphere over a given period as a result of human activity without causing harmful changes to the climate’. Policymakers who refuse to accept the reality of climate change are often criticised by climate activists for their ‘dinosauric’ attitudes.

On the individual level, many are adopting vegetarian or vegan diets to shrink their carbon footprints. Such diners will be familiar with the ‘soysage’, ‘soy burger’, and ‘soy cheese’ – gastronomic alternatives made with soy protein instead of animal products.

And that rounds out our summary of the OED’s 2022 updates!