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‘Goblin Mode’ is Oxford’s Word of the Year for 2022. What does it mean?

Chosen by public vote, the “slang term” means “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations”.

Goblin Mode, What is Goblin Mode, Goblin Mode meaning, Oxford Word of the Year, metaverse, express explained, current affairsIn the year that saw a gradual relaxation in COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, “goblin mode” appeared to be an apt representation of people’s sentiments, who rejected the curated aesthetics of perfection on display across social media. (Representational/File photo)
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Have there been times when you have felt loath to put your best foot forward and chosen instead to give in to sloth and slovenliness? Turns out, you have only just gone into “goblin mode”, Oxford’s word of the year. The first Oxford word of the year to be chosen by public vote is a “slang term” that stands for “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations”.

More than 3000,000 English speakers voted over two weeks for a choice among three words, screened by editors at Oxford University Press. Goblin mode won by 318,956 votes. “Metaverse” came second with 14,484 votes, followed by “#IStandWith” with 8,639 votes.

Goblin Mode: Origin and usage

As with every year, the Oxford word of the year represents the zeitgeist of the year gone by. Even though the word first made its appearance on Twitter in 2009, it went viral on social media in February this year, over a fake news headline that claimed that model-actor Julia Fox and her then-partner Kanye West broke up because he “didn’t like when [she] went goblin mode”.

On Tiktok, the #goblinmode hashtag is often used as a contrast to the idealised manifestations of being one’s best version. The term also featured on Reddit as a description of a person acting like a goblin.

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Casper Grathwohl, president, Oxford Languages, said, “…Given the year we’ve just experienced, ‘Goblin mode’ resonates with all of us who are feeling a little overwhelmed at this point. It’s a relief to acknowledge that we’re not always the idealized, curated selves that we’re encouraged to present on our Instagram and TikTok feeds.

This has been demonstrated by the dramatic rise of platforms like BeReal where users share images of their unedited selves, often capturing self-indulgent moments in goblin mode. People are embracing their inner goblin, and voters choosing ‘goblin mode’ as the Word of the Year tells us the concept is likely here to stay.”

In the year that saw a gradual relaxation in COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, “goblin mode” appeared to be an apt representation of people’s sentiments, who rejected the curated aesthetics of perfection on display across social media, choosing instead a more accurate description of life in the new normal, full of anxieties and, in some cases, a refusal to return to older ways of living.

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At the launch event to announce the word of the year, Ben Zimmer, American linguist and lexicographer, 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 license to ditch social norms and embrace new ones.” Previous Oxford words of the year include “vax” (2021), “climate emergency” (2019) and “toxic” (2018).

Metaverse and #IStandWith

The Oxford University Press (OUP) describes meta verse as “a (hypothetical) virtual reality environment in which users interact with one another’s avatars and their surroundings in an immersive way, sometimes posited as a potential extension of or replacement for the internet, World Wide Web, social media, etc.” While the first recorded use of metaverse in its dictionary goes back to 1992, it first found mention in the science fiction novel, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, published the same year.

For a politically volatile year across the world, the hashtag #IStandWith has been a keynote of online activism and expression of one’s solidarity with a cause, movement or person on social media. The OUP traces the origin of the phrase “to stand with” someone to the 14th century, noting the emergence and growing popularity of the hashtag version in the first decade of the 21st century. This year, one of its most prominent usages has been in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to show solidarity with the besieged nation.

First published on: 06-12-2022 at 13:14 IST
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