Dictionary.com chooses ‘existential’ as word of the year

The word "existential" in a dictionary in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Dictionary.com picked the word as its word of the year. The choice reflects months of high-stakes threats and crises, real and pondered, across the news, the world and throughout 2019. (AP)
Updated 02 December 2019

Dictionary.com chooses ‘existential’ as word of the year

NEW YORK: Climate change, gun violence, the very nature of democracy and an angsty little movie star called Forky helped propel “existential” to Dictionary.com’s word of the year.
The choice reflects months of high-stakes threats and crises, real and pondered, across the news, the world and throughout 2019.
“In our data, it speaks to this sense of grappling with our survival, both literally and figuratively, that defined so much of the discourse,” said John Kelly, senior research editor for the site, ahead of Monday’s announcement.
The word earned top of mind awareness in sustained searches at Dictionary.com in the aftermath of wildfires and Hurricane Dorian, and mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas. It also reared itself in presidential politics and pop culture, including Forky the white plastic spork who was the breakout star of “Toy Story 4.”
The soiled utensil is convinced his destiny is in the trash, until he embraces his purpose as a treasured toy of kindergartener Bonnie.
“Forky underscores how this sense of grappling can also inspire us to ask big questions about who we are, about our purpose,” Kelly told The Associated Press.
Oxford Dictionaries picked “climate emergency” as its word of the year, noting usage evidence that reflects the “ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year,” the company said in a statement.
Dictionary.com crunches lookup and other data to decide which word to anoint each year. The site has been picking a word of the year since 2010.
Among search spikes for “existential” were those that occurred after both Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders and 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg characterized climate change as an “existential” crisis, Kelly said.
Another spike occurred when former Vice President Joe Biden, also vying for the Democratic presidential nod, painted President Donald Trump as an “existential threat” to decency.
The word dates to 1685, deriving from Late Latin’s “existentialis.” Dictionary.com defines existential as “of or relating to existence” and “of, relating to, or characteristic of philosophical existentialism; concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by the individual’s freely made choices.”
Enter Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Gabriel Marcel and Jean-Paul Sartre, thinkers who molded and embraced existentialism, among other movements.
Climate, guns and the impeachment crisis for President Donald Trump were just a few areas that seemed to frame debate in existential terms. So did the Hong Kong protests, the Notre Dame fire, tensions between the United States and China, and Big Tech’s privacy and fake news problems.
“We started to see existential in the dialogue beginning in January and all the way through the year,” said Jennifer Steeves-Kiss, Dictionary.com’s chief executive officer. “This is a consistent theme that we saw in our data, but it also was leveraged across many different important questions of our time.”
As for Forky, his journey from disposable utensil to handmade toy points to the concept of “agency,” Kelly said, referring to the power to direct our own existences. That, he said, affords us the “opportunity to turn existential threats into existential choices.”


Homemade ‘Nikes’ give Filipino athlete a golden edge

Updated 14 December 2019

Homemade ‘Nikes’ give Filipino athlete a golden edge

  • Filipino schoolgirl Rhea Bullos bags three gold medals at an athletics competition without wearing shoes
  • Schoolgirl had her feet wrapped in tape and iconic Nike ‘swoosh’ logo drawn on them

MANILA: To some athletes, brands count for everything when it comes to performance.
Filipino schoolgirl Rhea Bullos bagged three gold medals at an athletics competition this week without wearing shoes, opting instead to wrap her feet in tape and draw an iconic Nike “swoosh” logo on them.
Bullos, 11, was one of several on her team of 12 athletes who made their own footwear because they had only two pairs of running shoes among them at the competition in the central province of Iloilo.
Trainer Predirick Valenzuela said Bullos showed her raw talent after taking up athletics only a month ago. A pair of running shoes could make a big difference in future, he said.
“Winning three medals in a competition like that is difficult, but she did it,” Valenzuela said by telephone from the central province of Iloilo.
“It’s every athlete’s dream to wear spike shoes,” Valenzuela added. “Not necessarily Nike, as long as they have decent shoes to be able to compete.”