So what is your political word of the year?

The OUP publishers normally select the Oxford word of the year, and last year they chose vax.  However this year they are asking the public to vote. Mind you, rather like the Tory leadership election, they are only offering a very short shortlist to choose from.

This year the words on the ballot are metaverse, #IStandWith and goblin mode. I must confess that I have never used the last phrase, but it usefully fills a gap in my vocabulary.

Collins also produce their word of the year. Last year it was NFT and in 2020, predictably, it was lockdown.

I have been watching The Crown, and eventually we reached the episode in which Charles and Camilla have that cringemaking conversation about Tampax. But I was surprised that the dialogue actually started by him asking her for feedback on a speech he was planning on the threats to the English language, in which he bemoaned the degradation of our beautiful language.  Note, this may or may not have been said in the actual conversation – I have done my research and can’t find it in any transcripts – but we know that it accords with his views. I think we can safely assume that Charles would not be happy with the shortlisted words of the year, or indeed of any year.

English is a beautiful, and rather profound language, with a far larger vocabulary than almost any other language. Its breadth reflects the social history of the UK over many hundreds of years.

We have a huge amount of apparent redundancy in the language, because over time it has built on and adopted words from an array of linguistic sources, from Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse to Church Latin, plus many modern European and global languages. For example, think of the multiple terms denoting one farm animal – pig, hog, swine, pork – where another language might have just one word. Interestingly when there are several synonyms, they often take on subtle differences in meaning, which add to the complexity of our thinking, as well as its poetic potential.

More recently, our vibrant cosmopolitan culture has added thousands of colourful words and phrases from around the world. Modern English demonstrates that Britain is a land that has welcomed and assimilated people from many cultures over the centuries and they have all contributed to the enrichment of our language. It has also spawned many variants, such as American English, which each has a history of its own. No language is immutable; languages are living beings that grow and adapt to changing influences, just as their speakers do.

So I welcome the newly minted (or newly rediscovered) words of the year. Each opens a door to new ideas or a new way of thinking.

But – and this is where I ask you to join me – what are the political words of the year?  Partygate? Trussonomics? Or something else?

 

 

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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14 Comments

  • A new word – intaxication – meaning the state of addiction to tax cuts.

  • It should be Chaos surely ? Or perhaps Torychaos ?

  • Stupidity. Giving political activists the job of electing party leaders was a time bomb waiting to go off. Corbyn (or even the wrong Miliband) should have been a warning. MPs should choose party leaders. Of all parties.

  • Peter Watson 23rd Nov '22 - 11:50am

    @Russell “MPs should choose party leaders. Of all parties.”
    I’m in two minds on this one. In principle, it seems right that party members should elect their party leader, but in practice, this can mean the leader does not have the support of his MPs. In the case of Corbyn, this meant Labour MPs were more intent on undermining their own party rather than risk a left-wing PM!!
    However, it seems to me that if the MPs are that out of touch with their members and activists, their party has some pretty serious problems to address! That’s one of the reasons I support PR: it would allow the Labour and Conservative parties to split into separate centrist and left/right entities, though I suspect that in such a situation, the Lib Dems would disappear into the two centre-left/centre-right parties.

  • Massimo Ricciuti 23rd Nov '22 - 11:54am

    Well said, Mary. Very interesting. I agree about english language.
    Maybe the word of the year It could be #Torychaos 🙂

  • Laurence Cox 23rd Nov '22 - 12:34pm

    Apart from a distinct preference for “goblin mode”, I think the principal problem of inviting the public to choose anything is that it inevitably ends up as Boaty McBoatface (or RSS Sir David Attenborough as we must now refer to it; at least the crew got in on the joke by naming one of the ship’s underwater drones Boaty McBoatface).

    One problem with direct democracy, as @Russell points out, is that members don’t know the candidates for leader well enough. Perhaps there were a few members who knew about, for example, Charles Kennedy’s alcohol problem but this was unknown to the vast majority of members until after the Parliamentary party forced him out. A similar comparison could be made for Tim Farron’s views (who was also forced out by the Parliamentary party) . Back in the time of the Ancient Greeks who invented democracy in Athens, it was possible for all the citizens to gather in one place and hear and question those who would lead them – and even they got it wrong as often as they got it right. Let’s not raise democracy, especially direct democracy, to a shibboleth.

  • PERMACRISIS. The very minute I heard the word I liked this. What else can describe the last 6 years

  • ‘Mini-budget’. Because it cost the country billions, and its effects will be with us for a very long time – despite all the U-turns.

  • @Peter
    MPs represent the electorate, not activists. If activists were similar to voters then fine. But they’re not. Hence Liz Truss! See Daniel Finkelstein in today’s times.

  • Peter Watson 24th Nov '22 - 9:29am

    @Russell “MPs represent the electorate, not activists.”
    Totally. But I still think that it reflects a serious problem within a party (or for an individual MP) if there is a significant mismatch between what an MP and members/activists believe is best for the electorate. Brexit, more than any other issue, highlighted this, with MPs in all three main English parties unable to reconcile their membership with their positions.

    With regards to party leadership, at least MPs decide which candidates are offered to members as options – a bit like the judges on Strictly ensuring we only have good dancers in the final for the public vote! 🙂

    And must the leader always be one of the MPs? For different reasons, the SNP and the Greens manage without that, and a few years ago, the Lib Dems were debating this issue (looking desperate to find a way for Gina Miller to replace Vince Cable!).

    P.S. Apologies for going off topic! My political word of the year – any year! – is probably “kerfuffle“. Followed closely by “disappointment”.

  • Definitely not Trussonomics, that was burnt in a flash. I agree with Tim Rogers … permacrisis – the state of the UK under a Tory government, or Tory-lite (aka. Labour under Starmer) prior to rejoining the EU!

  • @ Russell – Exactly.

    As Lawrence Cox points out, direct democracy may have worked in ancient Athens given its small and homogenous electorate but even that is debatable. I know of no example from history where direct democracy has worked at a larger scale or with a more diverse electorate.

    The Conservatives organise themselves to work with the fact that Britain is a representative democracy. One consequence is that when, in the judgement of their MPs, their leader loses the plot, s/he is unceremoniously dumped along with their failed policy baggage so Tory leaders must listen very carefully to their MPs who in turn must listen to their voters. That is why, despite their disastrous policies (they are the “Nasty Party” by their own admission), they have dominated UK politics for decades.

    In contrast the LibDems operate a kind of direct democracy where everyone has a theoretical chance to contribute. The actual result is that decision making, run by a series of committees (‘soviets’ in Russian), is opaque, responsibility is diffuse, no-one is accountable, and voter priorities are marginal. Leadership doesn’t come into it so failed leaders can and do last for years past their sell-by date.

    We are at circa 10% in current polls. Bearing in mind that typically around half is typically for non-of-the-above and 5% would vote for a donkey with a yellow rosette, that’s not too impressive.

  • Never mind the top In-Word! There’s a word we ought to ban from would-be adult discourse: MULTIPLE. This is either a sign of craven cowardice, anxious to conceal the speaker’s opinion, or an equally pathetic attempt to seem up-to-all-the-inwordisms. And to think such speakers may have caught this contagion from their keyboards, where it legitimately means simply “any number more than one”. It is not a word for Liberals, surely?

  • Neil Sandison 25th Nov '22 - 10:48pm

    And how many times did you hear the word “legacy” banded about in reference to political failures who did not deserve a legacy let alone honours list.

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