Remember 2015, when the Oxford English Dictionary’s “word” of the year was 😂? That was cute. This year it’s “toxic.”
“The Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance,” Oxford stated in a post on its website.
Oxford reports a 45% spike in the number of times users have looked up the word, and reports that after “chemical,” the word that most frequently follows it is “masculinity.” The term toxic masculinity refers to the epidemic of male entitlement, alienation, and violence that underlies the #MeToo movement’s tidal wave of trauma, as well as alarmingly high suicide rates for middle-aged men. Number six on Oxford’s list of toxic subjects is “relationship,” and indeed, even this website has published stories about toxic relationship habits.
Strained relations between the genders seem to be a theme on Oxford’s shortlist for 2018, which also includes “incel”—an involuntarily celibate man who holds hostile views towards women; “gaslighting”—a form of psychological manipulation that makes the victim doubt their own sanity, made famous by a movie in which a man does this to his own wife; and “orbiting,” which is when a person ceases communication (i.e: “ghosts”) but continues to lurk via social media, maintaining “an online presence in the subject’s life without any promise of meaningful interaction.”
Incels, gaslighting, and orbiting are all words that might incite, um, toxic feelings.
But the OED does have one lighthearted bright spot, and it is big dick energy. That’s right, the Oxford English Dictionary included “big dick energy,” also known as BDE, in its essential lexicon of 2018. The term was first made famous when a flattering, since-deleted tweet from Ariana Grande about her then-fiancée Pete Davidson inspired @babyvietcong to tweet about how Davidson “exudes big dick energy.”
Although the term refers to the magnetic confidence and swagger of a well-endowed man, BDE is by no means limited to a well-endowed man, as the Cut’s Allison P. Davis artfully explained earlier this year. Unlike the other shortlisted words, the Oxford dictionary folks deferred to a series of authors and Twitter users when it came to defining BDE, as if it got a little flustered in its very presence.