WORD OF THE YEAR 2021: OVERMUSED

Every year here at Haggard Hawks, we crown our very own Word of the Year—a suitably obscure term, pulled from one of the dustier corners of the dictionary, that somehow sums up the last twelve months.

 

Past winners have included the likes of snollygoster (an unscrupulous politician), fallaciloquence (untruthful speech), and ipsedixitism (the dogmatic assertion of something as truth). And after  one of the closest rounds of voting we’ve ever had, we have a new winner: the HH Word of the Year 2021 is overmused, a word for feeling worn out by thinking too much.

Shoutout to the first runner-up here, thulge, which led the pack right up until the day before voting closed. But after a last-minute dash to the finish line, overmused ended up taking this year’s crown by quite some margin—more than fifty votes, in fact.

 

Here’s how the final shortlist ​shaped up...

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WORD OF THE YEAR 2021: overmused 33%

(adj.) worn out from thinking too much

It’s fair to say we probably all had a lot on our minds in 2021, which makes this superb seventeenth-century coinage the perfect choice for Word of the Year. To overmuse is to overthink, or to contemplate too much—so if you’re feeling overmused, then you’re utterly exhausted from endlessly thinking, worrying, and mulling things over. And after yet another difficult twelve months, that’s probably a feeling many of us were familiar with in 2021.

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RUNNER UP

thulge 26%

(v.) to tolerate something unpleasant

Here’s a fact for all you number-crunchers our there: a verb has never won Word of the Year here at HH. In fact, in all the years we’ve being doing this, only two have ever been nominated—desiderate back in 2018, and this word, thulge, in 2021. It looked like history was going to be made this year, as thulge led the voting from day one. But a final flurry of votes for overmused ousted it from the top spot, leaving it as this year’s runner up. 

It would have made a worthy winner too, given how 2021 shaped up, because to thulge is to tolerate something unpleasant. To be patient. To endure. To grin and bear it. To weather the storm. In other words, though we may not have known it, we all thulged our way through 2021. (And 2020, for that matter...)

 

Old Alarm Clock

...AND THE REST

pseudiater 18%

(n.) someone who feigns or questionably professes medical expertise

Medical terminology continued to be common parlance in 2021, but in a world of antivaxxers, antimaskers, and antilockdowners, this nineteenth-century invention made an appropriate addition to our newfound collective lexicon of medicalese: a pseudiater is someone who feigns or professes medical expertise, regardless of any actual learning or experience. “Someone who pretends or wrongly believes themselves to have medical knowledge,” as one definition puts it—or, as a 1914 medical dictionary even more succinctly explained it, “a quack charlatan”. 

Image by Mpho Mojapelo

apanthropy 17%

(n.) a love or desire for solitude; a dislike of being around other people

“Hell is other people,” Jean-Paul Sartre wrote. That sentiment probably qualifies as misanthropy, a hatred of all humankind, while  apanthropy is its slightly less savage cousin. A word from the medical textbooks of the 1700s and 1800s, it describes “a species of melancholy characterised by a dislike to society,” according to one, or “a love of solitude,” according to another. Either way, this is a word for a desire for your own space—and after another fractious year of lockdowns, doomscrolling, and working from home, it picked up an impressive 161 votes to leave it just 1% off bronze medal position. 

Image by S Migaj

channel fever 5%

(n.) an intense, restless homesickness, sparked or worsened by nearing the end of a long journey

In 2020, you named the nicely optimistic word respair (the opposite of despair) as your Word of the Year—but in 2021, it seems, you weren’t feeling quite so hopeful. Channel fever is an old nautical term for a sailor’s restless longing for home as they finally entered familiar waters at the end of a long journey. It would have made a nice choice here for anyone feeling homesick for some semblance of normality after the past few years, and who were perhaps beginning to feel our long covid journey were coming to an end. But with just 5% of the votes (compared to overmused’s 33%), it seems more of us were feeling beaten up than upbeat by the end of 2021.

Image by Raimond Klavins

FINAL VOTING

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