Some years, the Oxford English Dictionary word of the year is inspirational. Other years, it’s… well… green and weird. Goblin mode defeated “Metaverse” and “#IStandWith” to become by far the most voted word of this year’s list and go down in history as “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations”.
Goblin mode was first recorded on social media in 2009, but remained a low-profile, niche piece of slang. Still, we’ve probably all felt a bit ‘goblin’ at some point — whether it’s unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy.
Some, however, go harder than others. Elon Musk posted an image that attributed buying Twitter because he was in ‘goblin mode’ — so next time you feel a bit goblin-ish, rejoice that you at least didn’t spend 40-something billion dollars.
Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages, also believes people have been embracing their inner goblin, adding that the engagement from the public caught them by surprise. In total, there were 318,956 votes to separate the 3 finalists making up 93% of the total.
“The strength of the response highlights how important our vocabulary is to understanding who we are and processing what’s happening to the world around us,” Grathwohl told BBC.
It’s also a bit reassuring that the word of the year is something that signals imperfection and the worldly woes that we all face, as opposed to something high and mighty.
“Given the year we’ve just experienced, ‘goblin mode’ resonates with all of us who are feeling a little overwhelmed at this point”, he added. “It’s a relief to acknowledge that we’re not always the idealised, curated selves that we’re encouraged to present on our Instagram and TikTok feeds. This has been demonstrated by the dramatic rise of platforms like BeReal where users share images of their unedited selves, often capturing self-indulgent moments in goblin mode.”
The use of the term rose in the first half of 2022, as much of the world relaxed pandemic restrictions and people returned to ‘normal life’ or quite the opposite — rejected and rebelled against what was considered socially normal.
Goblin mode is a celebration of the unglamorous but relatable zeitgeist of the year, a license to embrace the days when you’ve had enough or just want to celebrate yourself and enjoy a bit of extra self-care.
The Collins English Dictionary 2022 word of the year was permacrisis, while Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year was gaslighting. Compared to these ones, goblin mode doesn’t even seem so nasty, doesn’t it?
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