Oxford Dictionaries has chosen 'toxic' as its Word of the Year 2018: toxic air, toxic waste, toxic masculinity, and of course toxic politicians. It beat out words like 'gaslighting,' 'techlash' and 'incel,' i.e. can't get a date and don't know why.
Oxford Dictionaries decided that no word other than 'toxic' better sums up the state of all things 2018 that can actually be put into words.
But it wasn't just the usual culprits like toxic gas, toxic environment – the physical things that poison us – that decided the issue. Perhaps as importantly it was the metaphysical, or let's just call it the non-physical toxicities that abound.
Oxford noted that the term toxic environment was more likely to refer to a harmful workplace environment and its toll on workers. From overly demanding workloads to outright sexual harassment, many companies have been exposed as incubators and enablers of a toxic workplace culture: a mass walkout at Google; the disgrace of icons; and accusations of bullying and abuse.
Toxic workplaces inevitably produce toxic relationships. But the latter extend far beyond the workplace: partners, parents, children, 'friends,' colleagues. Poisonous relationships were the sixth most-seen toxic topic for 2018, according to Oxford's data.
One recurring element in such discussions has been toxic masculinity.
Oxford's data show that after ‘chemical,’ ‘masculinity’ has been the most-used word in conjunction with toxic so far this year. The #MeToo movement is credited with putting the spotlight on toxic masculinity in popular and business culture. But it was also political.
Oxford noted that the furore over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court shows that toxic masculinity has "well and truly taken root in the public consciousness."
Origins of the term
The adjective toxic is defined as ‘poisonous’ and first appeared in English in the mid-17th century from the medieval Latin toxicus, meaning ‘poisoned’ or ‘imbued with poison.’
But the word’s deadly history doesn’t start there. The medieval Latin term was in turn borrowed from the Latin toxicum, meaning ‘poison,’ which has its origins in the Greek toxikon pharmakon – lethal poison used by the ancient Greeks for smearing on the points of their arrows. But it was not pharmakon, the word for poison, that made the leap into Latin here, but toxikon, which comes from the Greek word for ‘bow,’ toxon.
Why 'toxic' this year?
Oxford looks for a word or expression that reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and resonates in a way that suggests the word or term will not disappear from use any time soon.
Toxic has been around for a long time, but in 2018, Oxford judged it had added "many strings to its poisoned bow becoming an intoxicating descriptor for the year’s most talked about topics." [Editor – Well, they are wordsmiths aren't they!]
Oxford says the "sheer scope" of the word's use was why, in the end, they settled on it for Word of the Year 2018. Following are the top 10 collacates – words used with – for 'toxic' this year: chemical, masculinity, substance, gas, environment, relationship, culture, waste, algae and air.
And the runners-up were…
The eight words or terms toxic beat out were: big dick energy (BDE), cakeism, gammon, gaslighting, incel, orbiting, overtourism and techlash. You can read more about these wonderful words here.
(source: Oxford Dictionaries)