ADS Word of the Year: fake news

On 5 January, the American Dialect Society chose fake news as its 2017 Word of the Year. The ADS defined fake news as either “disinformation or falsehoods presented as real news” or “actual news that is claimed to be untrue.” The phrase was considered during the organization’s deliberations for the 2016 Word of the Year (WOTY), but in that year it was being used only in the first of these two senses. Donald Trump began using it in the second sense in 2017, and it is this sense that catapulted it into the top spot. As far as I know, this is the first time a word has been considered in multiple years. (The ADS uses an expansive definition of word, that of “vocabulary item,” which includes phrases, hashtags, and the like.)

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Click here to see the 2017 WOTY

This is the twenty-eighth year the ADS has selected a WOTY, making it the most venerable of the organizations that do so. The organization comprises linguists, lexicographers, and those who study and write about language professionally. While the aims of the organization are scholarly, the WOTY selection is not a scholarly exercise, but rather one performed for fun and to educate the public about how language change is a normal, ongoing process.

While the single WOTY is noteworthy, perhaps more compelling are the words that were considered for the various categories the ADS votes on. The selections and the vote tallies are as follows:

Word of the Year

  • fake news, 196
  • #MeToo, indication by women that they have experienced sexual harassment or assault, 35
  • take a knee, to kneel in protest, especially during a time when others are standing, 30
  • alternative facts, contrary information that matches one’s preferred narrative or interpretation of events (this is the definition given by the ADS; I would define it as euphemism for lies, 12
  • persisterhood, persister, blend of persist and sister(hood), an expression of solidarity for women who persist in the face of sexism and gender bias, 6
  • milkshake duck, person or thing that is deeply loved until problematic behavior is revealed or unearthed, 5
  • whomst, humorous variant of “whom” used as a sarcastic display of intelligence, 3
  • pussyhat, pink knitted hat worn by demonstrators at the Women’s March, 2

Political WOTY

  • take a knee, 181
  • persister, persisterhood, 62
  • antifa, anti-fascist movements and organizations, treated as a whole, 16

Digital WOTY

  • shitpost, an online posting of worthless or irrelevant online content intended to derail a conversation or to provoke others, 78
  • rogue adj., describing someone ostensibly working in an administration who is posting messages against it, 34
  • ratio, on Twitter, amount of replies to a tweet compared to the number of retweets and likes, 25
  • get the zucc, be banned from Facebook (from the name of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg), 24
  • initial coin offering, capital-raising process to collect funds to start up a new cryptocurrency, 21
  • emergency podcast, an audio show prepared at a moment of dire political need, 20
  • digital blackface, when a (usually white) person uses images of black people as a proxy for themselves on social media, 19
  • blockchain, technology underlying cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which exploded in value this year, 18

Slang/Informal WOTY

  • wypipo, humorous phonetic spelling of white people used to flag white privilege, cluelessness, or absurdity, 168
  • snatched, good-looking, attractive, 22
  • shooketh, mock-archaic way of expressing shock or excitement, 18
  • RIP, humorous expression of being overwhelmed by emotions or other factors, as if dying, 5

Most Useful

  • die by suicide, a variant of to commit suicide that does not suggest a criminal act, 108
  • -burger, combining form modeled on nothingburger, 60
  • angry react, sad react, expression of anger or sorrow (describing reaction emoji, e.g. on Facebook), 38
  • millennial pink, tint of pink used in goods and social media by and for millennials, 8

Most Likely to Succeed

  • fake news, 226
  • unicorn, a one-of-a-kind person or thing, 20
  • stan, v., be a big fan (from the Eminem song, “Stan”), 2

Most Creative

  • broflake, man or boy who lacks resilience or coping skills in the face of disagreements or setbacks, 100
  • askhole, person who continuously asks ridiculous or obnoxious questions, 78
  • milkshake duck, 50
  • caucacity, blatantly exhibiting white privilege or acting in a stereotypically white way (a blend of Caucasian and audacity), 36

Euphemism of the Year

  • alternative facts, 181
  • avocado toast, a minor indulgence for which people unfairly judge others, esp. millennials, 43
  • internet freedom, removal of net-neutrality regulations by the FCC, 23
  • problematic, an understated way to say something is very wrong or unacceptably politically incorrect, 13


  • covfefe, a (probably) mistyped word of unknown meaning used in a Donald Trump tweet, 113
  • raw water, water from natural sources without filters or treatment, 74
  • Oh hi Mark, ohimark, catchphrase based on a line from the notoriously bad movie The Room, 34
  • procrastination nanny, person who moderates productivity for other adults, esp. as a group event, 16

Hashtag of the Year WOTY

  • #MeToo, 231
  • #ReclaimingMyTime, phrase repeated by Rep. Maxine Waters when questioning Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in a House committee hearing, 25
  • #NeverthelessShePersisted, feminist rallying cry based on Mitch McConnell’s warning to Elizabeth Warren during a Senate debate, 12
  • #Resist, slogan of the anti-Trump resistance, 11

Emoji of the Year

  • woman with head scarf or hijab, 96
  • goat (Greatest Of All Time), 44
  • im impeach, 50
  • thinking face, 53

Source: ADS press release

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