Copylab looks at the new words of 2016

Trumpatized by Brexit in a post-truth world? Go hygge yourself

niels-footmanWord of the year for the OED was post-truth, but in the world of financial communications, there was only one serious contender: Brexit – without the quotation marks.

The term ‘Brexit’ in quotes, shorthand for Britain’s exit from the EU, first appeared in 2012.

But 2016 is when it went mainstream. The quotation marks came off, it became a household name and spawned a rash of spinoffs: Bremainers, Brexiteers, Bregret.

Before the referendum vote, Brexit required quotation marks and even an explanation when it was used in financial communications.

But as the referendum earthquake and its aftershocks unfolded, fund managers and investment writers bowed to the inevitable and accepted Brexit both as a political reality and a real word.

Indeed, so quickly did it become mainstream, so utterly did it throw off its quote marks, that we believe it thoroughly deserves the accolade of Copylab’s Word of the Year.

Then there were those spinoff terms. Those in the Remain camp became ‘Bremainers’, while those in support of the divorce became ‘Brexiteers’ – self-fashioned cheerleaders for a UK independent of EU membership.

The referendum did make for some eye-catching lexical banter, but the reality of the vote was, frequently, far from jovial.

The campaign was cited as a major factor in the development of post-truth politics, with many voting to leave on widely

Sunderland Leave campaigners celebrate
Leave campaigners celebrate

trumpeted fears over the migrant crisis reaching the UK and Turkey gaining fast-track membership of the EU.

For its part, the Remain camp faced intense criticism for ‘fear-mongering’ over geopolitical threats and the extent of economic damage to the UK should it leave. That’s a whole lot of fear and a lot less fact.

On the morning of 23 June, as the vote to leave was confirmed, a deep sense of ‘regrexit’ swept the country as thousands of millennials took to their social media platforms to lament about their ruined futures.

Meanwhile, many Scots and Londoners demanded independence from the UK and inclusion in the EU. To top it all, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said that the Leave campaign’s claim that exiting the EU would provide £350m more a week for the NHS – a claim that was plastered across the campaign’s bus in the run-up to the vote – was a ‘mistake’. Post-truth politics reigned over a country divided by a vote over its identity.

While the UK spent the summer deciphering what Prime Minister Theresa May meant by ‘Brexit means Brexit’, the US was digesting a shock of its own: Donald Trump had just won the Republican presidential nomination.

And so, a presidential election campaign like no other began. Mr Trump vowed to Make America Great Again while denouncing his Democratic rival as Crooked Hillary. In this age of post-truth politics, it came as no surprise that facts were disrespected, the media treated with contempt and insults exchanged in high volumes and often on Twitter.

The reality-TV-star-turned-presidential-nominee was as much feared as he was mocked.

As with the Brexit referendum, new words soon emerged that tried to capture the feeling of the time. ‘Trumpatized’ came

Donald Trump vid clip

to describe the state of somebody shocked by the prospect, and then reality, of Donald Trump serving as president.

The election also put the spotlight on the term ‘Alt-Right’, which has been used to refer to a number of different shades of far-right ideology.

With the political upheavals of the year just past, it seems fitting that the Oxford English Dictionary should choose ‘post-truth’ as its Word of the Year.

Defined as ‘Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’[1], post-truth provided a dark, jolting contrast to 2015’s winner, the tears-of-joy ‘emoji’, and to the respective winners in 2014 and 2013, ‘vape’ and ‘selfie’.

Certainly, with everything that has happened this year, the days when language was preoccupied with smiley faces or snapping cheesy self-portraits could scarcely have seemed further away.

Which is not to say that it was all doom and gloom on the linguistics front. Another contender for the Oxford English Dictionary title, the Danish word ‘hygge’ (actually originating from Norwegian) translates best as ‘A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being’.[2]

Think curling up with friends and sipping from hot mugs of coffee round an open fire, wearing hand-knitted socks and breathing in the scent of your new cinnamon candle.

Denmark is consistently ranked the happiest nation on earth and so it’s no wonder that a number of books about all things hygge appeared on the UK market this year. As winter wears on, and as many deal with their inner regrexit or trumpatized state of mind, we could probably all do with a little bit of hygge in our lives.

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Niels Footman is head of marketing at Copylab

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