Word of the Year 2017:
The votes are in... The 2017 Haggard Hawks Word of the Year is agathism—the belief that all things eventually get better, though the means of getting there may not be easy. And after a tumultuous twelve months, it has to be said it’s nice to end things on a positive note.
Last year’s HH Word of the Year was snollygoster, an unscrupulous politician, who will do anything to achieve office. Some choice political terms made it onto the 2017 shortlist too, but with 35% of all the votes cast it’s agathism that will take us into 2018 on a tentatively optimistic footing.
Read on for more about agathism, the other finalists, and the final scores...
the belief that all things eventually get better, though the means of getting there may not be easy
We don’t know what the future holds, but after what was largely considered an annus horribilis in 2016, it seems there could be light at the end of the tunnel as we head into 2018. Which makes agathism a nice choice for Word of the Year.
Agathism derives from agathos, a Greek word meaning “good” or “noble”. It dates back to the early 1800s in English, when George Miller, a fellow of the Royal Irish Academy and a lecturer in modern history at Dublin University, gave an address in which he spoke of a colleague who considered himself “not an optimist, but an agathist”, as he believed “everything tended to good, but did not think himself competent to determine what was absolutely the best.” From Dr Miller’s address in 1816, the word fell into occasional use in philosophical discussions in the nineteenth century, before largely falling out of use in the mid 1900s.
someone frustrated or aggrieved with the current political environment
If you caught this word over on the HH blog back in March, you’ll know this story already. According to the Old Testament, it was to a cave on the outskirts of Adullam in Canaan that the future king David fled when he discovered Saul was plotting to have him killed. There, David was joined scores of Saul’s disgruntled subjects, and together this motley band of “Adullamites” spent the remainder of their exile bemoaning Saul’s regime and plotting to oust him from power.
Now skip forward to the mid 1860s: a dissenting band of anti-reform Liberals in the British parliament went against their own party’s policy (of extending the right to vote to all working men) and began plotting with the opposition Conservatives to derail their own government’s plans. Having seemingly “exiled” themselves from their party, these renegade parliamentarians were labelled “Adullamites” by Liberal MP John Bright in 1865, and the word has remained a byword for anyone disgruntled or dismayed with the current state of politics ever since.
a teller of blatant falsehoods; a liar who boasts of their lies
If there’s one thing that purveyors of “fake news” excel at (a term the folks at Collins Dictionaries chose as their Word of the Year), it’s promoting their own version of the truth in place of that provided by anyone else. And an abydocomist—“a liar who boasts of their lies”—is someone who does precisely that.
Like Adullamite before it, abydocomist has its roots in the ancient world. Abydos was a town on the banks of the Hellespont in modern-day Turkey, whose inhabitants, according to one nineteenth century encyclopaedia at least, were “given much to detraction” and “addicted to calumny”. It’s this reputation that lies at the root of abydocomist—a word defined by the English lexicographer Nathan Bailey in 1751 as a term for “sycophants who boast of their falsehood”.
the act of intentionally overlooking or ignoring something objectionable, and by doing so giving it your tacit approval
Dating from the early 1600s, connivency is an obsolete ancestor of the more familiar connivance—a word defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the action of overlooking or ignoring an offence [or] fault”, and thereby “implying secret sympathy or approval”. Put another way, the OED explains, connivency is “encouragement by forbearing to condemn”.
In the context of 2017, this word could be said to apply to too vast an array of stories and revelations to detail here—but it’s for no less a reason that our friends at Dictionary.com opted for complicit as their Word of the Year.
describing a deal or exchange that vastly benefits only one side
According to an incident in Homer’s Iliad, two fighters named Glaucus and Diomedes met in face-to-face combat during the Trojan War. Before fighting, the pair magnanimously agreed to exchange their armour—but while Glaucus gamely handed over his suit of “divinely wrought” gold, he received in exchange a near worthless suit “of mean device” from Diomedes made of nothing more than poor-quality brass. For that reason, deals that vastly benefit one side above the other in their negotiations are known as Diomedean exchanges.
And after a year of wrangling Brexit negotiations and the GOP’s questionable tax bill, Diomedean made it onto the 2017 HH shortlist.