Macquarie Dictionary announced yesterday that its 2019 “word of the year” is “cancel culture.” On the surface, this is fine: “Cancel culture” may signify an important trend that existed before this year, but it’s also an important shorthand to describe how the world is currently trying to hold people, from racist pizzamongers to clueless, entitled actors, to some kind of account as a society. Choosing it to represent an important aspect of 2019 makes a lot of sense.
Beyond this, though, it’s hard to ignore that “cancel culture” is, in fact, two separate words and that Macquarie’s continuous failure to respect the sanctity of the decision to pick a singular word of the year for its award means that the dictionary must now, we regret to say, be canceled itself.
As severe a dictate as Macquarie’s canceling may be, consider the many infractions the dictionary company has had in the past. As Mashable reminds us, the committee responsible for choosing “cancel culture” for 2019 is “no stranger to picking two words as its word of the year. In 2018, it picked Me Too, and 2017's word was milkshake duck.”
Clearly, this is not a one-time mistake. Macquarie seems bound and determined to continue picking two separate words where only one should be selected. In a post announcing its decision, the company clearly explains that its committee searches “all the new words and new definitions that have entered the Macquarie Dictionary in the past year” and, from this survey, selects “a single Word of the Year.” [Emphasis added.] Rather than go for “eco-anxiety,” which at least has a hyphen included, it landed on a pair of words that “[capture] an important aspect of the past year’s Zeitgeist” and describe “an attitude which is so pervasive that it now has a name.”
Rather than express any sort of remorse for its rule-breaking behavior, Macquarie’s Twitter account defended its choice to highlight two words in the place of one, saying, “Technically, it’s a lexical item” and telling people to go vote in their People’s Choice category if they’re so worked up about it.
Clearly, Macquarie itself feels above accountability. It will just go on picking two-word words of the year forever, refusing to reconsider what it’s done wrong. That is, unless the internet decides that the dictionary’s “word of the year” award is canceled and, um, everybody gets mad about it for a bit and then moves onto the next thing a day or two later.
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