More than 300,000 people cast their vote in Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2022, with ‘goblin mode’ winning and ‘metaverse’ coming in second.
Oxford’s Word of the Year signifies a word or expression that reflects the ethos and moods of the past twelve months – one that has a lasting cultural significance. This is measured through evidence of real language usage, as Oxford editors track words that emerge throughout the year, using statistics and other language data in the Oxford English Corpus. Previous winners have included ‘vax’ (2021), ‘climate emergency’ (2019) and ‘selfie’ (2013).
What does ‘goblin mode’ mean?
Oxford has outlined that ‘goblin mode’ is a slang term often used in expressions. For example, ‘to go in goblin mode’ or ‘to go goblin mode’ gives meaning in that it “is a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”
Oxford says that the term was first seen on Twitter in 2009, and went viral on social platforms in February 2022 as newspapers and magazines were using the term in headlines. It became popular after covid lockdowns eased as people were rejecting the idea of returning to a “normal life” or those rebelling against the aesthetic standards of living on TikTok and Instagram.
Examples of goblin mode:
If you haven’t conformed to using goblin mode in your vocabulary, here are some examples that others have used.
The Guardian quoted, “Goblin mode is like when you wake up at 2am and shuffle into the kitchen wearing nothing but a long t-shirt to make a weird snack, like melted cheese on saltines”.
The Times quoted, “Too many of us… have gone ‘goblin mode’ in response to a difficult year.”
A special event was held to announce this year’s approach to selecting the Oxford Word of the Year. At the event, American linguist and lexicographer, Ben Zimmer said: “Goblin Mode really does speak to the times and the zeitgeist, and it is certainly a 2022 expression. People are looking at social norms in new ways. It gives people the licence to ditch social norms and embrace new ones.”
Virtual reality kicks in
As the tech world constantly evolves, so do lexicons. Oxford defines the term ‘metaverse’ as describing a hypothetical virtual reality environment where users interact with each other’s avatars and surroundings in an immersive way. But the word and concept is not a new one, its first recorded use dates in 1992, in the science fiction novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.
But until Zuckerberg merged his platforms together in October 2021 with his concept of the ‘metaverse’, the word started gaining popularity. Other words associated with ‘metaverse’ include – Web3, virtual, NFT, crypto, build and vision. As tech continues to transform, these words will likely remain prominent in discussions of the new online world.