November- Word of the Year


Laura Madler

Can you guess the 2018 Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year?

The Oxford Dictionaries have just announced their pick for the 2018 Word of the Year-



The adjective is defined on the Oxford Dictionary website as “poisonous,” or “very bad, unpleasant, or harmful.” Reportedly, the Oxford Dictionaries website saw a 45% increase in the number of searches for “toxic” just in the past year alone, making it a prime choice for the annual Word of the Year.

According to the Oxford Dictionaries website, Words of the Year are meant to “reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance,”- so what does “toxic” say about the world in 2018? After all, previous selections for the title have included such words as “selfie” (2013), “vape” (2014), “GIF” (2012), and even at one point an emoji- ? (2015). With a history of choosing frivolous words- these little cultural fireworks that popped into the common lexicon and became old news just as quickly- the word “toxic” seems like a dark, out-of-place choice. However, there may be no better way to describe the past year.

In addition to publishing the word of the year and its web traffic statistics, Oxford Dictionaries includes a list of the top related searches, in this case the top nouns coupled with the adjective of 2018. The results:

  1. Chemical
  2. Masculinity
  3. Substance
  4. Gas
  5. Environment
  6. Relationship
  7. Culture
  8. Waste
  9. Algae
  10. Air

The results show overarching trends in two categories- relationships and the environment.

It’s no secret that 2018 wasn’t a great year for the health of the natural world. Pollution from industry and consumers continues at an alarming rate, spewing toxic chemicals into the air and water that surrounds us. Several massive storms wreaking havoc in the Atlantic coastal areas have left cleanup of toxic wastes and dangerous substances a real issue for many communities. And, of course, no one can forget that chilling October message from the UN that the state of our environment may not be half as stable or sustainable as we thought.

More often, however, young people encountered the word “toxic” in relation to the social culture. Twitter was ablaze this year with accusations and anger, with “toxic” celebrities and public figures being “cancelled” for their past transgressions and errs in judgement. The wave of sexual harassment cases and “#MeToo” continued to run a rampant course on the American national stage, taking down Hollywood actors, powerful business people, and US politicians who thought their histories could be swept under the rug. Quite recently on the national stage, the appointment of a new Chief Justice to the Supreme Court brought up the issue of “toxic masculinity” and the leniency with which society excuses wrongdoings by men. People reevaluated their interactions with each other, with self-care proponents spouting advice about dumping toxic friends or partners and avoiding emotionally harmful situations. Instantly, one slip in judgement from an average social media user could catapult them into an internet den of lions, with social media users ripping their fellows to shreds online, one ‘trending’ topic after another.

What do people really think about the toxicity of 2018? Here’s what the Lion’s Roar staff had to say:

Leonela Cabral, Style and Fashion Editor- “I think people have been having a lot of drama this year. People are realizing that maybe they haven’t chosen their friends wisely, and that’s brought up this whole thing of ‘toxic’ drama.”

Jay Mendez, Sports Editor- “Toxic, back then, it was obviously a substance. Now it’s more of a quality someone can have, like ‘oh that person is toxic’ and you want to stay away from them because they’re bad and don’t treat people right.”

Kelly Ritenour, Clubs and Activities Editor- “I feel like nowadays, especially through social media, there’s this kind of ‘callout culture’ where we sort of look back through people’s actions. Some people will post stuff like ‘friendly reminder that this person is toxic‘ and sometimes it’s right and valid and they deserve to be called out for doing really messed up things, but other times you look at the person posting and think ‘hey, buddy, you’re reaching.’ I’ve just been seeing that word thrown around a lot through social media and discussions about friends and people in our school, even.”

Laura Madler, Editor-in-Chief- The year 2018 saw its fair share of anger. Cultures clashed, poor decisions were made (and brought back to the surface of public knowledge), and months were marred with disasters and tragedy. Messages of hate spread like wildfire and fractured communities. This is nothing new, but it is something that our society has been dealing with for far too long. Our world has moved on from the cheerful, frivolous words of fleeting pop culture moments and now is facing reality. “Toxic” isn’t a word that most people want describing their year, but maybe it’s more suitable than we’d care to realize.