By most reliable measures, 2016 has been a very good year for fiction lovers. I'm not talking here about literature; I'm talking about the opposite of fact. In mid-November, Oxford Dictionaries declared post-truth
to be its word of the year. Indeed, it's been a banner year for all the words we have at our disposal to say, "Nope, it just ain't so."
In a couple of months, the word authorities – the major dictionaries, the American Dialect Society, and language bloggers – will select their words of the year for 2016. I have no inside line on what those words will be; indeed, in past years, the winners have surprised me. (Singular "they," anyone?)
I learned a new word this summer: glotion
. The word is meant to convey two concepts – glowing
– in a single blended neologism. That is to say, it's a portmanteau
word, a strategy for word and name creation that goes back almost 150 years.
When the British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton was searching, in 1999, for a term to describe a network of computers with their own means of gathering information and understanding the world, he didn't resort to a noun pileup like "Object Connectivity Matrix." He didn't coin a cute word like "Sensorius." Instead, he gave this dawning phenomenon a name that incorporates one of the oldest words in the English language. He called it the Internet of Things.
If you're looking for proof of the English language's remarkable flexibility, enter the word hack
into the New York Times
's search field. The newest results will include a mention of "hack politicians" and a reference to "the suspected hack of Sony Pictures by North Korea" in 2014.
Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential candidate, briefly made headlines last month when it was announced that she'd signed a production deal for a TV "reality" show set in a courtroom. "She'll preside over the courtroom of common sense," according to Larry Lyttle, the man behind the deal. If the show materializes, it won't be the first time a politician has claimed "common sense" as a preeminent virtue.
Over the last 35 or so years, journey
has become one of our culture's dominant metaphors, a handy stand-in for experience
, and series of events.