Oxford Dictionaries today declared “Youthquake” as the word of the year for 2017, owing to what it calls a “political awakening” among young voters. Youthquake is defined by Oxford Dictionary as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people”.
Last year Oxford named “post-truth” as the word of the year, after the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the
US presidential election.”We chose youthquake based on its evidence and linguistic interest. But most importantly for me, at a time when our language is reflecting a deepening unrest and exhausted nerves, it is a rare political word that sounds a hopeful note,” Casper Grathwohl, Oxford President of Dictionaries, said in a blog post.
“Hope that our polarised times are creating a more open-minded electorate that will exercise its voice in the times
ahead,” said Grathwohl. Usage of the term in the UK increased fivefold in 2017 over 2016, including a huge spike in the second half of the year, he said. The word first built momentum in the wake of the British polls in June when young voters almost carried the Labour Party to an unlikely victory, the dictionary said.
Then it began to gain usage in New Zealand in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in September, in which the Labour party aimed to appeal to younger voters and succeeded in gaining seats and forming a new minority government, it said.
Australians acknowledged the word in referencing it during their November referendum on marriage equality, which resulted in a youthquake of support. Youthquake originated in a very specific context, coined by Diana Vreeland, the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, when British youth culture was changing the face of fashion and music in the 1960s, according to the blog post. Five decades later youthquake has been resurrected with a new meaning, now referring to the political awakening of the oft-maligned millennial generation.
Other words in contention for this year’s word of the year included ‘antifa’ — a short word for “anti-fascist”, and
‘broflake’ meaning a man who is readily upset or offended by progressive attitudes that conflict with his more conservative views. ‘Kompromat’ — the Russian term for compromising information collected for use in blackmailing, ‘unicorn’ – adding rainbow colours to things, especially food and ‘Milkshake duck’ — a person or character on social media that appears to be endearing at first, but is found to have an unappealing back story — were also considered.