Word of the Year 2018
Every year here at HH we turn over our choice of Word of the Year to you lovely people—and 2018 was no exception. The usual rules applied: we posted a shortlist of five suitably apposite and typically obscure words here on HH.com and opened the votes to you.
It was a close run thing between two finalists in particular in 2018, both of which were tied at the top of the leaderboard for a fair few days. But scooping a full 37% of all the votes, the 2018 HH Word of the Year is...
dogmatic language; the notion that merely saying or asserting something, however untrue, makes it fact
Fake news was named Collins Dictionaries’ Word of the Year in 2017, but here at HH we need something a little more obscure to sum up the twenty-first century’s obsession with dogmatic disinformation. Step up to the plant, then, a word coined way back in 1885: ipsedixitism.
Derived from the Latin tag ipse dixit (literally “he said it himself”, the motto of Ancient Greece’s Pythagorean philosophers, no less), ipsedixitism is another word for dogmatic, doctrinal, and often entirely unreliable speech or language. Saying something is true just because you say it is? That’s ipsedixitism. Not got any evidence to support what you believe but what to state that you believe it anyway? That’s ipsedixitism. And it’s also your choice of HH Word of the Year 2018.
to long for something that is now lost; to desire with loss or regret
One of 2018’s most popular HH tweets was the word beochaoineadh, defined as an Irish “elegy for the living”—a lament for someone who is alive, but who has gone away or is dearly missed. (JK Rowling tagging that tweet with the name “Barack Obama” probably had something to do with it blowing up online, and, y’know, blowing up HH’s phone.)
But as a not entirely naturalized English word, we couldn’t nominate that here. So instead, we opted for desiderate—your third place word—which as we explained on Twitter back in October, is “to desire something that is lost or that you regret ever losing.”
AND THE REST...
the belief that the world is getting worse
Agathism ended things on a tentatively optimistic note when it was crowned 2017’s Word of the Year; this year, we shortlisted its direct opposite. Pejorism—a word that gained a lot of notice over on HH back in March—derives from pejor, a Latin word essentially meaning “worse”, and ultimately refers to the feeling that the world is getting worse.
Pessimism, in case you’re wondering what the difference is, derives from pessimus, meaning “worst”; when it first appeared in the language in the late 1700s, it simply meant “the worst state possible”. We might not be quite there yet, but from our politics to global warnings on climate change, 2018 hasn’t given us an awful lot to cling on to. Or so the pejorist in you might be forgiven for thinking...
a powerful, determined woman
We were tempted to give cyanescent, meaning “gradually turning blue”, a shout out in this year’s shortlist, after it went so well on Twitter (and on the new HH InstArt channel) following the 2018 US midterms. But what made that “blue wave” so significant was the number of trailblazing women who made history as part of it. And put the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women ever elected to US Congress, alongside figureheads like Jacinda Ardern, Dr Christine Blasey Ford, Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Muradi, and Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez—and add in the fact that 2018 was the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage here in the UK—and, boy (or rather, girl) did you have a good case for making Zenobia your Word of the Year.
The name of a 3rd century queen of Palmyra who saw off the Roman Empire and grew her kingdom to its greatest ever size (more on her here), Zenobia is a metaphor for any powerful, determined woman. There were plenty of those to choose from in 2018, but alas, with 34% of the vote, Zenobia was pipped at the post here and ended up in second place.
a man who associates with unpleasant characters solely to act as leader or make himself feel important
Easily one of the oddest words we’ve ever shortlisted for Word of the Year, cock-of-the-company is a term for what Francis Grose’s 1785 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Back in the eighteenth century, Grose described it as “a weak man, who from the desire of being the head of the company, associates with low people.” It’s a term with overtones of complicity and collusion, and of turning a blind eye to the failures or shortfalls of your associates, simply because power or importance can be gleaned from them. And should you want to, you can provide your own contemporary example of that.