And Finally the Top Global English Word of the Year 2016, and it’s not a word … But rather a Meme!


Omran Daqneesh, bloodied and stunned, after he was pulled from the rubble in Aleppo, Syria

The world of language in the Industrialized West reflected the turmoil undergoing much of the political systems throughout the Year 2016 and continuing into early 2017.  However, it would be a mistake to characterize 2016 as a year with the World, as a whole, in Turmoil.  After all, having one nation exiting the EU block of some twenty-eight counties along with the the election of what by European Standards is a Center-Right government in the United States does not equate to 1914, 1939, the emergence of China onto the world economic stage earlier this century, or even the Global Economic Restructuring of 2008 and what continues to in its wake.

Since the Global Language Monitor began to use the newly available techniques and technologies to document the Words of the Year for Global English at the turn of the 21st century, the tumult of the preceding twelve months can be put into a more or less shocking perspective.  After all, in 2009  GLM named ‘twitter’ as the Global English Word of the Year, not as a social media phenomenon but as a potential Weapon of Mass Disruption (or even destruction). Witness, one President Trump.

And even the whole idea of fake news and post-truth is a bit of an over-reaction. Of course, there needs to be put into place new methods of testing information.  Perhaps one of the oldest scholarly methods could be updated to the present day — with all information being checked against ‘original sources’.

The debate over what is news and what is truth has been ongoing since the dialogues of Plato, the monastic scriptoria of Medieval Europe, where an elaborate system was constructed to ensure that no discrepancies were introduced into Scripture or highly-prized scholarly works — before the coming of movable type and the printing press. Can you imagine the decibel-level of a discussion that played out over the misrepresentation of a single letter when dealing with the work of a Church Father, the Apostle Peter (or Paul), or the Word of  The Lord Himself?

There is the sense that we are witnessing an unprecedented historical event; historical in the sense that we now appear to be standing astride (or atop) a cusp in history, a delta, a decision point, what is now called a point of inflection or inflection point.

Watching the nightly news and reading the traditional (for the last two centuries, that is) media, one has the distinct sense that what they perceive as unprecedented almost chaotic circumstances is actually that of the normalcy of the new reality, that of communications at the speed of light that the internet has foisted upon us. 

We keep hearing about this most unusual of election cycles, but this is only true when looking through the prism (and historical construct) of the traditional news gathering operations. What is called the 24-hour News Cycle is actually just the tip of the Tsunami washing over the planet at a steady speed and ever-quicker pace.  Indeed, the nature of the beast hasn’t changed at all.  It is our outdated techniques, that haven’t kept up with the new reality:  News now emanates at the speed of thought, from thousands or, even, tens of thousands or even millions of sources.

Can you imagine the uproar in the monastic world when documents would be would be produced with little or no vetting against the time-honored standards?

In 2008 GLM published an article, “Is Merriam-Webster its own Best Frenemy,”  Where we noted that its newest additions to its Collegiate Dictionary, were older than most entering college students at the time (28 years vs 18!)  Indeed, for the most part, technology could solve most of the Post-truth and Fake News phenomenon.



1. Bigly — Things trending larger … bigly. Almost everything trended bigly thus far in 2016 from politics and foreign affairs, to terrorism and gun violence,

2, Brexit — The British Exit from the European Union provides a new vocabulary for future political breakups: Scotxit, Quebecxit and, even, Texit.

3. Non-binary — A legal term for a gender identity between male and female

4. Perhaps the first emoji. The unpronounceable symbol representing the singer formerly known as Prince.

5. Zika — Please note that Rio is not on this list; its spot was taken by the Zika Virus. A potential global pandemic with Rio as its epicenter.

6. Gun Culture / Gun Violence — Gun Culture/Gun Violence are neck-and neck in the ranking here.

7. Safe Place — In the US, places where students can retreat to avoid hearing unpleasant words; in the world, places protected from rape, crucifixion, being sold into slavery, and the like.

8. Heroin and Fentanyl — More deaths from opioids in the US than gun violence and auto accidents combined. Where is the outrage?

9. Hooya ha tah iti bin — “Son please don’t smuggle yourself.” Transliteration of a Somali mother’s plea to her son not to join the refugee flow into Europe.

10. Memory Care — Current euphemism for Alzheimer care.

11. Presumptive — Presumptive Republican nominee, presumptive Democratic nominee, presumptive prime minister, etc. In 2016 the word ‘presumptive’ is bigly.

12. Texticate — Facebook, messaging, twitter, email … everything is reduced to text… the textication of the world as we know it.

13. Clintonworld — The private world of Hil and Bill where many of the laws of the political world seem to be suspended. Cf. Steve Job’s ‘reality distortion field’.

14. Trumpism — The emerging political philosophy of the presumptive Republican candidate,whatever that may be.

15. Tennessine — New element on the periodic table, with Atomic number 117 and the symbol Ts. Some wags say to honor Bluegrass, more likely the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Word Fact:  Alternative spellings for Tenessee

Tanase, Tanasee, Tanase, Tanesi, Tanisee, Tannasie, Tannassie, Tannessee, Tannassy, Tansai, Tenasi, Tanasqui, Tenesay, Tennassee, Tenesee, Tenessee, Tennecy, Tennesy, Tennisee, Tinnace, Tinassee, Tonice, Tunasse, Tunassee, Tunese, Tunesee, Tunissee, Tunnissee.


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