Macquarie Dictionary has this thing where they pick a “word of the year” every December that’s been the most accurate reflection of the past year’s Zeitgeist. For 2019, it decided the word of the year that most encapsulated those 12 months is none other than *drumroll please* “cancel culture.”
An overarching theme that defined 2019 was how everyone was increasingly trying to hold people, from entitled Hollywood types to crappy men, accountable for their problematic behaviour and “cancel culture” is a pretty good summary of this trend.
But there’s just one problem with Macquarie Dictionary’s selection: it isn’t a goddamn word, it’s two separate words.
You’d think that an institution dedicated to the preservation of the English language like Macquarie Dictionary would know what the definition of “word” means, but apparently it’s pretty flexible on how the language works.
Hell, in the post explaining how it picks its word of the year, the company even says it decides “on a single Word of the Year for the year that has passed” and it looks “at all the new words and new definitions that have entered the Macquarie Dictionary in the past year.”
But in a touch of irony that carries shades of those who have been called out by “cancel culture,” Macquarie Dictionary are eschewing accountability and doubling down on the decision to go with two separate words instead of one, stating that “technically, it’s a lexical term.”
What’s more slightly irritating is Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year honourable mentions list. With equally applicable words like “eco-anxiety,” “ngangkari” and “thicc,” why did they have to go with the one word that isn’t even one word?
Now this isn’t the first time that Macquarie Dictionary have played jump rope with the definition of “word.” 2018 saw “Me Too” be named word of the year while 2017 had “milkshake duck” be bestowed the increasinly-inaccurate honour so don’t expect Macquarie Dictionary to change its modus operandi any time soon.