This past November the Oxford Dictionary announced its 2018 Word of the Year. This announcement probably did not qualify as an A-list event where designer-clad, bejeweled celebrities strode a big red rug amid the cyclops brigades of TV camera lenses. No political polemic emanated from the winning word, nor did tearful acceptance speeches flow from the vowels or consonants. Humbled by the honor, today, they all are lowercase.
And the 2018 Word of the Year is…”toxic.”
To conserve space, this article had to omit the stage directions for panning the applauding audience. Right now, I am the only one clapping like a hyper-caffeinated seal. Too bad you can’t witness it.
You simply cannot fathom the joy I experienced when the Word of the Year was announced.
Is my state of rapture because I love the word, “toxic?”
No, actually, it’s because I loathe it. It’s a verbal weapon that is sometimes masked as a helpful diagnosis of just what is wrong with your personality, character and point of view. I first heard and read the “toxic” reference uttered by a professional therapist whom I know socially and a whole bunch of amateur ones I’d rather not.
The word “toxic’s” only merit is its value on the Scrabble board – a stand-alone total of 14 points: The “X” is 8 points; the “C” is 3. The “T,” “O,” and I each are worth one point. I’m no math genius, but on a triple word score, you can earn a cool 42. And if you’re just playing Anagrams, and someone throws down “quixotic,” you can claim toxic as a word within the word.
Like so many of the hackneyed epithets that combatants hurl at one another, “toxic” is just one of those hurtful names that all you can do is deny. It’s like two four-year-olds:
“You’re a dumdum head!”
“No, you are!”
“No, you are!”
You’re thinking you know the next line, but I’d like to think I know when to stop writing or become the Captain Obvious of the Keyboard.
What I learned from those most facile with the toxic label is that denying it really means you are… toxic.
I propose we limit the “toxic” label—skull and crossbones—to substances that, if ingested, are certain to poison—and not in the metaphorical sense meant by the meme-sters who are uber-users of the 2018 Word of the Year.
ELLEN FISCHER IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.