Hygge, sexsomnia and Irexit: hated words of 2016

You also disliked ‘gift’ as a verb and ‘keep the recovery going’ as a slogan

‘Suddenly everyone is seeking a hygge life, putting a hygge spin on every activity, and dreaming of a hygge Christmas’

‘Suddenly everyone is seeking a hygge life, putting a hygge spin on every activity, and dreaming of a hygge Christmas’

 

Let’s face it, there wasn’t much to like about 2016, but along with the many crimes against humanity, sanity, logic, taste and common-sense committed this year, we witnessed the birth of some bad buzzwords and cringeworthy catchphrases.

Some have been around a while, but seemed to gain “traction” this year. Some are specific to events of this year, which makes me hope they won’t stick around long into the new year. Some are awkward, portmanteau constructions, while others are succinct, neatly summing up the thing they describe.

“Shrinkflation” was everywhere this year, as many of our favourite supermarket products became smaller and pricier. Shrinkflation reached a new low when the makers of Toblerone removed some of the triangles from their iconic (!) chocolate bar, turning it into a sad, gap-toothed excuse for confectionery.

“Sexsomnia” became a thing this year, when a 29-year-old man accused of raping his friend claimed he was suffering from the condition, which causes the afflicted person to engage in sexual acts in their sleep.

Sexsomnia isn’t makey-uppy – it’s an actual psychosomatic condition, albeit rare, and can be triggered by contact with another person while asleep. The sexsomniac has no memory of the acts they’ve committed while asleep. The jury in the trial failed to reach a verdict, but whoever coined sexsomnia should stand trial now.

Danish fad

“Hygge” was big this year, as lifestyle bloggers pushed the Danish concept of “cosy living”, contentment and enjoying the simple comforts of home: warm blankets, roaring fires, piping hot broth, woolly socks and snuggling together like happy hamsters. Suddenly everyone is seeking a hygge life, putting a hygge spin on every activity, and dreaming of a hygge Christmas.

“Alt-right” rose in popularity in tandem with support for Donald Trump, as people struggled to find a word to signify new breed of conservative in the US, for whom even right-wing views were too leftie. Hillary had a better word for them, but let’s not go there again.

But what were your most annoying words of 2016? After a day of research, tweeting, Facebooking and talking to actual real people, we’ve come up with a list of words and phrases that made people cringe in 2016.

Top of the list is Brexit – which was, lest we forget, a variation on the original Grexit. We thought Brexit would go the way of its forebear, but alas, it has come to dominate the “narrative”, so we’re stuck with this word at least until 2019. Variations on Brexit, such as Brexiteer, Irexit and Happy Brexmas also annoyed, and even as we speak, great minds are working hard to come up with more buzzwords ending in “exit”.

Trump was, unsurprisingly, high on the list of most-hated words, along with Farage and Boris, but admit it, folks, it’s the people attached to the words you hate, not the words themselves. More worthy of your disdain was the Trump-ism “bigly”, which viewers of the September 26th TV debate heard him use. Except he didn’t use the word. He was actually saying “big league”. Still, bigly rather suits the Donald, doesn’t it?

Another hated US election-related word was “dogwhistle”, using coded language in your public pronouncements to send a political message to your core supporters, which Trump was accused of doing many times during the election. His supporters also hijacked the “narrative” – and will probably demand a huge ransom to give it back.

Replacing the truth

And right up there is post-truth, which is the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2016. True, we do live in a post-truth society, but that doesn’t make this term any less unlikeable. It’s also a bit of a tongue-twister (try to repeat it fast), so we’d be inclined to do a Trump on it and pronounce it “postrew”.

There was a flurry of posts condemning “Snowflake”, that gossamer generation of delicate poppets who supposedly can’t handle anything that vaguely challenges their worldview, and so lock themselves away in their own little online “filter bubbles” and “echo chambers”, which are presumably nice and “hygge”.

I don’t want to burst any snowflake bubbles, but some of you expressed annoyance with the variety of terms seemingly coined simply to avoid offending people who didn’t fit the “cisnormative” gender identity. “Genderqueer” and “non-binary” were chief among the hated terms. You now need a queer dictionary to navigate the perilous terrain of gender terminology.

A lot of you were annoyed by the use of “believe” by marketers to sell their products, or “philosophy” by sportspeople to describe their team strategy. And once again, “journey” rolls on, even though most of us have stopped believing.

“Gifting” is a no-no for Christmas – “gift is a noun, not a verb” as are “experiences” as a substitute for actual things under the tree.

“Disconnect” has also been condemned as grammatically wrong. “It should be disconnection.” A reasonable argument, but let’s just disconnect from that term completely.

Finally, an Irish one to end the year: “Keep the recovery going.” This was Fine Gael’s mantra during the election earlier this year, but it didn’t quite chime with public opinion, which was more like, “where is this bloody recovery you keep banging on about?”

As we close the year with Brexit looming, not to mention the threat of US multinational profits being “repatriated” and vulture funds snapping up the entire country for a song, that much-hyped recovery is starting to look like a bad buzzword from another era.

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