2018 Words of the Year

It’s December and December means end of year lists. Here are some of the words that caught our eye with their ascendance in 2018 and their creative fulfillment of some essential communicative voids.

By the way, 1) this list is alphabetical because we love all our lexical babies equally, 2) we don’t get our panties in a bunch over what a word is, so the list includes phrases that operate as semantic units, and 3) this list is heavy on the internet lingo and usage because we are millenials who don’t have IRL conversations with anyone ever.

  • big mood

noun phrase: something relatable

This one has been percolating for a bit. It showed up on Urban Dictionary on September 14, 2017, but it’s presence has continued to grow this past year. Says who? Says The Daily Dot, an internet publication that covers internet news. The Daily Dot credits “big mood” and its less intense cousin, “a mood” to Black Twitter and argues it’s a replacement for TFW (that feeling when) which peaked in Spring 2017. On social media a mood and big mood frequently accompany a reaction GIF or image, but it can also be a response to something relatable.

  • the brands

noun phrase: multinational corporations, especially their PR and social media arms

The concept of brand has been around since 2700 BCE when the ancient Egyptians started branding livestock to differentiate their cattle from a neighbors. Then the merchants were like, “good idea,” and started using symbols and names to brand their swag. The ubiquity and importance of brand in business has led to the word’s usage for individuals:  “my personal brand” and such and such behavior is “on brand.”

Over this past couple years we noticed the word being used in a slightly new way online. The brands refers to an amorphous group of multinational corporations. It’s usually derisive and often used to poke fun of corporations when they are performing wokeness or trying to be playful online.

  • canceled

participle adjective: to reject or dismiss something or someone

The top definition of canceled on Urban Dictionary was submitted on March 10, 2018 and reflects an emerging usage among the extremely online types: such and such person or thing is canceled on account of sucking. Canceled frequently collocates with a time reference and, for some inexplicable reason, men. JK… it is extremely explicable.

  • thank u, next

verb phrase: expressing gratitude and readiness to move on

“thank u, next” is the “boy, bye” of 2018. Ariana Grande publicly addressed her high profile break ups when she released the track “thank u, next” telling her exes later gators, but also thnx. It’s polite and dismissive, a compliment and a sick burn. We all need this semantic unit in our lives.  

If you do a search for “thank u, next” on Twitter, your results will be clogged with references to the record-breaking song. But stick with it and you’ll find people starting to use it to punctuate their posts ranging from defenses of the cast of CW’s Riverdale to feminist statements. It seems to be mostly applied as a performative utterance to indicate the speaker has finished saying what they need to say and are dismissing their interlocutor.

  • Weird flex but OK

noun phrase: “I am not sure why you are bragging about that. However, it’s fine.”

Okay, this one– and, let’s be real, the whole list– is pretty memey (memish? memical?), but Oxford Dictionaries shortlisted Big Dick Energy for their WOTY, so we are going to do what we want with this list.

This phrase is a rejoinder to someone bragging or showing off about something they really shouldn’t be. Flex has been used in African American English to mean bragging, boasting, showing off, etc. for a long time, but Weird flex but OK emerged more recently. Since October 2018 there have been 7 entries in Urban Dictionary defining it in similar ways and one even bemoans it’s overuse and subsequent lack of meaning. The phrase made it on Buzzfeed’s top memes of 2018 and has been covered by multiple ‘splainers like this and this and this. It’s pretty fresh, so we shall see if it has staying power.

Please voice your questions and disagreements in the comments. Also, keep an eye out for words with fresh faces in 2019!

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