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It’s A Word-Off! Which Word Of The Year Is The Real Word Of The Year?

It’s that time of the year: the Word of the Year! But will the dictionaries agree?

2019 has been a big year for words. I was on the Internet recently and you would not believe how many of them I saw. Dozens. Maybe more.

So how do you work out which of these words are the best to use?

Well call me a populist, but I always head straight for the Word of the Year. Sprinkling that liberally through my conversations and interactions is clearly going to make me appear up-to-date and in tune with the zeitgeist.

And today’s the big day. Not just one, but two major dictionaries have chosen this day to confirm which word sits atop the lexicographic podium. The Macquarie Dictionary, the classic Aussie reference tome that primary school kids have long used to look up rude words, and Dictionary.com, which is obviously the ultimate URL for finding definitions and confirming spelling.

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So rather than dusting off the green and gold word-bible, let’s start off online at Dictionary.com, where we discover that the Word of the Year is…

Dictionary.com's Word of the Year: Existential

Interesting, not a new trendy phrase, “existential” does seem to summarise a rising wave of angst around the world about our very existence itself.

So I wonder what the Macquarie Dictionary has to say about this supreme word.

*One browser tab later*

Wait a minute! They say the Word of the Year is “cancel culture”!

Macquarie Word of the Year: cancel culture
It’s like these dictionaries don’t agree at all! I thought these were reference books, the last word on all the other words! If they can’t agree on such a simple thing as the best word, how can we trust them to define our entire language for us?

Even their shortlists have no overlap. For Macquarie, honourable mentions have gone to “eco-anxiety”, “ngangkari” (a word from the Pitjantjatjara language meaning 'traditional healer') and “thicc” (a colloquial term for ‘curvaceous, voluptuous’ – so you can stop telling the Internet that they misspelt “thick”, they are aware). Meanwhile, Dictionary.com has chosen “nonbinary” to be their runner-up Word of the Year.

So how can I decide what Word to use this year? We’re going to have to have a Word-Off!

Cancel culture: Nice to see you here, Existential, but aren’t you a bit old-fashioned? Sitting around smoking cigarettes in Parisian cafes with Jean-Paul Sartre doesn’t exactly scream 2019.

Existential: Nice bit of ageism there, Cancel culture, thought that was the sort of thing you railed against.

Cancel culture: OK boomer.

Existential: Hey, at least I’m a word. You’re two words. Why don’t you go try for Phrase of the Year.

Cancel culture: Yawn! This argument has been had. The Oxford even gave an emoji Word of the Year a few years back.

Existential: Urgh. Very postmodern. No wonder our entire species is doomed.

Cancel culture: I don’t see you doing much to help.

Existential: Hey, I’m pro-existence. You’re just a Negative Nancy.

Cancel culture: You can’t use that sort of gendered language. Cancelled.

Existential: But…

Cancel culture: CANCELLED.

And with that, Existential popped out of existence, and Cancel culture was given the title of Heavyweight Champion of the Word.