Here’s hoping words of harmony, respect and trust will define 2017

The choices for words of the year in 2016 showed the gloom that many felt over the turn of events. Dare we believe in optimism this year?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 10:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 10:06pm

The last year has seen so many unexpected and dramatic events shaping the world, it is not easy to find a single word which sums them up. That has not stopped leading dictionaries from trying. The selection of their words of the year, largely driven by reader interest, sheds light on the matters which concerned us in 2016.

The choice paints a gloomy picture and has clearly been influenced by the Brexit referendum in Britain and Donald Trump’s presidential election victory in the US. The Oxford Dictionary chose the adjective “post-truth,” a word often used to describe the campaigns in both countries. The dictionary defines the word as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Dictionary.com’s word of the year is depressing, if not surprising. It picked “xenophobia”, defined as “a fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures or strangers.” Regrettably, there has been far too much of that in evidence around the world this year.

American dictionary Merriam-Webster opted for “surreal.” Spikes in searches for this word were seen after terror attacks in Brussels and Nice, but most interest came the day after Trump’s election. One definition of surreal, “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” was perhaps the appropriate one on that occasion. The US dictionary had appealed to readers to help prevent “fascism” from becoming the most popular word. Interestingly, that sparked an unsuccessful bid on social media for “puppies” to secure the top ranking instead. People were understandably looking for something more cheerful.

A good choice for a phrase of the year might be “I have exhausted all my mystical powers.” This was made famous by Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui, who meant that she had tried her very best. The phrase was one of those selected in China’s own search for words of the year. It may be naive to think that words such as harmony, trust, reconciliation, respect and peace could be among the favourites for 2017. But we live in hope.