Word of the Year 2019:
Every year here at HH, we turn over our choice of Word of the Year to you. And, as always, last December we shortlisted five apt and suitably obscure words from the Haggard Hawks archives and asked you to crown the word you thought best summed up the previous fairly tumultuous twelve months.
The winner was the grand but ominous-sounding fallaciloquence, a word for the deliberate telling of untruths. It’s somewhat unwelcome choice, you might argue, but there’s always hope: symmachy, a word for the act of working together against a common problem came a very close second, in what proved to be the closest year of voting yet. Here’s how all the votes ended up in order, beginning with 2019’s winner.
(n.) the deliberate telling of lies and falsehoods
Our lovely friends over at Oxford Dictionaries called this one out a few years back: worried about an ever-growing tide of disinformation, they made post truth their Word of the Year way back in 2016. And—perhaps an indication that, far from abating, that tide of has only grown larger and more forceful—you have made fallaciloquence the Word of 2019. It proved a tight race in the end, however, with 2019’s choice scraping just over one-quarter of all the votes cast. So if you’re looking for something a little more positive, perhaps our silver-medal word might be more comforting.
(n.) the act of working together against a common enemy
Given the events of 2019, no matter where you stood on the political or global spectrum we were all heading into 2020 with more than a few fights on our hands. And as always when we’re facing a problem or a challenge, it’s best to tackle these things together. Perhaps for that reason, you made symmachy—originally a seventeenth century word for wartime aid or military alliances, but more loosely used to mean co-operation and community-spiritedness—your runner up for 2019.
(n.) someone who ambitiously and ruthlessly advances themselves to a high-ranking position, which they are largely unfit for or unworthy of
Arriviste was one of the most popular words on HH in 2019. Borrowed into English from French in the nineteenth century, it’s a term for someone who ruthlessly or ambitiously secures a position of power, despite their absolute unworthiness for the job. It’s by no means a modern phenomenon (we’ve been using this word since 1895), but given some of the, er, powerful figures that led us into 2020, it was perhaps no surprise that this word took an impressive one-fifth of all the votes this year.
AND THE REST...
(n.) the regrowth of a plant or tree, after earlier trauma or destruction
2019 was a year in which our attention was arguably turned more than ever before to climate change and the environment; in fact, the good folks at Collins Dictionaries crowned climate strike their word of the year.
Coming in a respectable fourth place in a close race on Haggard Hawks this year, traumatropism is a word for the regrowth of a plant or tree—in an often unusual or unwieldy shape—as the result of earlier damage or destruction. It’s a word to remind us that nature can always recover, no matter how destructive the forces holding it back. Whether we give it the chance to in 2020, of course, is another matter.
(n.) a future state of existence; a later generation
Rounding off this year’s list, afterworld is a sixteenth century word for a future world or state of existence. Arguably one of the themes of 2019 was that of decisions being made and actions being taken that will have profound consequences, not now, but long into 2020 and beyond. From political upheaval to environmental concerns, the full effects of these actions (or, as might be more appropriate, inactions) won’t come to pass until some time in the future, when today’s younger generation—whose voices have, in some cases, been ignored in 2019—will have to deal with them. Afterworld, ultimately, is a word to describe both this future time, and the generation who will inhabit it.