Oxford Word of the Month: September – cubby house

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nouna part of a family home organised or designed so that adult children can have privacy from their parents.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

High rents in urban areas and the housing affordability crisis in Australia have given rise to a now familiar problem for parents: when will the kids leave home? And until they do, how can we all live under one roof? Adult offspring need less parental attention than children, but they are likely to want more privacy—a big ask for many suburban households.

Recently a survey found two-thirds of adult children report that they can’t afford to move out of home, with some expecting to remain at home until the age of 30 or more. The company commissioning the survey used the term cubby house syndrome to describe domestic arrangements for such families:

CoreLogic chief executive Lisa Claes said this could see the rise of ‘cubby house syndrome’, whereby parents attempt to fashion independent living arrangements for their adult children inside the existing property. (News.com.au, 8 May 2017)

The term evokes an aspect of childhood for many Australians: a cubby house is a children’s playhouse, usually solidly constructed. The Australian cubby house (recorded from the 1890s) is a specific use of the British English cubby-house ‘a children’s name for a snug, cosy place’, or ‘a little house built by children in play’.

The cubby house of childhood is typically a permanent feature of the backyard, but the new type of cubby house for the adult child is more likely to be indoors. It is the flip side of the parents’ retreat, an Australianism dating from the 1970s, when parents decided they needed a private wing or room in the house away from their growing children. The new retreat for adult children is likely to be at the other end of the house, and possibly a converted garage, rumpus room, or house extension.

A newspaper headline recently interpreted it this way: ‘Cubby-house kids take over the granny flat.’ (The Australian, 9 May 2017) Granny may still have a say in this, but the prospects for under-30s home ownership are unlikely to change soon; she may have to share.

Cubby house and cubby house syndrome are being considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

 

Oxford Word of the Month: August – honey joy

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noun: a honey-flavoured biscuit containing cornflakes

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

In 1938 a simple recipe for a crisp honey-flavoured biscuit appeared in a Victorian newspaper:

Honey Joys … Five cups cornflakes, 3 dessert-spoons butter, 2 table-spoons castor sugar, 1 table-spoon honey. Melt butter, sugar, and honey; mix in the cornflakes, put into paper patty cases, and bake in a moderate oven for three minutes. Take out, and leave to set. (Melbourne Argus, 13 July)

There are earlier references in the 1930s to store-bought lollies called honey joys, but the recipe above is the first evidence we have of the cornflake-based biscuit we know today, and uses the same ingredients and method. The variant form honey crackle, first recorded in 1941, is less common, but is still in current usage: ‘My first memory of cooking is with my grandma making honey crackles…’.(Perth Eastern Reporter, 10 November 2015)

Breakfast cereals are a cheap and convenient ingredient for sweet biscuits, and there are some well-known examples in Australian cuisine. Rolled oats feature in the traditional Anzac biscuit, while more highly processed cereal is the main ingredient for the honey joy and another Australian classic, the chocolate crackle, based on rice bubbles. Chocolate crackles and honey joys emerged in the same period, and both became favourite party snacks for children. But honey joys are easier to make. According to this writer, they are foolproof:

When my chocolate crackles would not set and my toffees fell into misshapen blobs in the patty cases, I always knew my honey joys would pull through. (Canberra Times, 19 March 1991)

And pull through they have, for nearly 80 years. The simplicity of the recipe, the convenience of using ready-made cereal, and the cornflake crunch have no doubt contributed to their continuing popularity. They have a long association with children’s parties, school fetes, fundraising events, and country shows:

Last weekend, the family and I spent all day at the Yankalilla Show … The stalls were groaning with honey-joys, chocolate slices, rock buns and sultana loaves. (Adelaide Sunday Mail, 7 October 2007)

Our fondness for them means they have achieved the same nostalgic status as other typically Australian fare:

Our daughter Karen, living in London … had an Australia Day Supper on the 26th January with other Tasmanians. It consisted of—vegemite sandwiches, honey crackles … sausage rolls … and lamingtons (found it a hassle making those), together with Australian wine and milo. (Deloraine Western Tiers, 19 March 1992)

Honey joy and honey crackle are being considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

 

 

Oxford Word of the Month: July – Shoey

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noun: the act of drinking an alcoholic beverage out of a shoe, especially to celebrate a win.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

The shoey is an Australian phenomenon that shot to international fame in 2016, thanks to Australian racing driver Daniel Ricciardo. He came second in the German Grand Prix in August and on the winners’ podium performed a shoey for the crowd, filling his shoe with champagne and drinking it. The international press were amused and horrified in equal measure.

Ricciardo repeated the move on the podium after a second placing in Belgium, and again as the winner of the Malaysian Grand Prix. The shoey also attracted notoriety at the Malaysian Grand Prix with the arrest of the Budgie Nine—a group of Australian spectators who had been seen doing shoeys—for stripping down to speedos printed with the Malaysian flag.

The shoey has humble origins in Australia, and possibly began as a kind of party trick. It is described in a Tasmanian newspaper in 2014, in the first written evidence of its use:

Punk bands from across the country are converging on the spiritual home of the ‘shoey’—the act of using your dirty shoe as a beer mug—this weekend for the second annual All Tomorrow’s Shoeys festival. (Hobart Mercury, 24 April 2014)

It is clear from the name of the festival that the history of the shoey predates 2014 but so far earlier evidence remains elusive.

The shoey’s association with motorsport may have begun in 2015 with V8 drivers in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. It hit the international stage in July 2016 when performed by Australian motorcyclist Jack Miller to celebrate his Dutch MotoGP win. Daniel Ricciardo credits Miller as the inspiration for his own podium shoey. Now the shoey has global recognition as Ricciardo’s signature move on the prestigious Formula One circuit:

It was another ‘shoey’ day for Perth’s Daniel Ricciardo when the 27-year-old celebrated his second place in the Belgian Grand Prix by drinking champagne from his shoe. (Wanneroo Times, 30 August 2016)

The shoey is clearly having a moment, at least within motorsport circles, as this Gold Coast Bulletin item relating to the Gold Coast 600 car race suggests:

S is for shoey. Drinking booze from your own well-worn shoe. Apparently it’s the in-thing right now. It started with V8 Ute champ Ryal Harris, then Dave Reynolds, now it’s a global trend. You might see a few on the hill. (21 October 2016)

Shoey will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary. It was shortlisted for the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s 2016 Word of the Year.

Oxford Word of the Month: June – Kangatarian

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noun: a person who eats kangaroo meat but avoids eating other meat. Also as adj.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

In early 2010 a number of news organisations, both in Australia and internationally, reported on a new diet trend happening in Australia:

There’s a new semi-vegetarian wave emerging in Australia: people who exclude all meat except kangaroo on environmental, ecological and humanitarian grounds. They call themselves kangatarians and are slowly growing in numbers. (Sydney Morning Herald, 9 February)

A number of these reports referred to a group of university students who were actively promoting this new diet:

Then, about 12 months ago, one group in Sydney decided to begin spreading the word about the benefits of kangaroo meat. ‘They coined the phrase kangatarians, it was a bit of a joke initially’, said Peter Ampt, a lecturer at the University of Sydney and a kangaroo meat advocate. (Calgary Herald, 13 February)

The evidence suggests the term is linked to these stories from early 2010.

Kangatarian is modelled on the word vegetarian. The -arian suffix means ‘having a concern or belief in a specified thing’. Vegetarian is also the model for other recent neologisms such as pescatarian ‘a person who eats fish but avoids eating meat’, and the jocular meatatarian ‘a person who eats meat as a significant part of their diet’. The kanga- element in kangatarian of course comes from kangaroo, a name for any of the larger marsupials of the Macropodidae family, with kangaroo entering English via the Guugu Yimithirr language of north-eastern Queensland.

Some of the appeal of eating kangaroo meat in preference to other meat is because it is thought to be healthier (it is a naturally lean meat), but kangatarians chiefly find the diet appealing on environmental grounds, because it does not rely on large-scale husbandry practices as other meat production does. Attempts to encourage a reluctant Australian public to eat more kangaroo meat, however, would probably entail the adoption of some of these practices.

Achieving the objectives of the review, then, would require the kangaroo industry to shift to farming techniques, but this would be in breach of kangatarian values. And a CSIRO report has dismissed kangaroo husbandry as a tedious and costly endeavour, on account of the animals’ nomadic habits, their low reproduction and slow growth rate, and behaviour patterns that generally prevent herding. (Crikey, 2 May 2012)

The reference to ‘kangatarian values’ illustrates that the term does not simply denote a dietary behaviour but, like vegetarianism, is often based on a set of ethical choices. Indeed, the word kangatarianism is also making its way into the Australian lexicon:

City newspapers and foodie magazines are swooning over the new wave of semi-vegetarianism that is emerging in Australia—Kangatarianism—excluding all meat except kangaroo on environmental, ecological and humanitarian grounds. (Alice Springs Centralian Advocate, 12 February 2010)

Kangatarian (and kangatarianism) will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

Oxford Word of the Month: May – Smashed avo

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noun: a cafe meal typically consisting of a thick slice of toast topped with chopped or mashed seasoned avocado.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

The term smashed avo, a popular breakfast item found on cafe menus, is Australian in origin. The first published evidence appears in 2011 (though avocado on toast certainly appeared on menus before this) and usage has increased significantly in the last two years. A spike in evidence in October 2016 reflects a new use of the term as a cultural symbol.

It began when columnist Bernard Salt wrote an article on ‘the evils of hipster cafes’, commenting:

I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more. I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle-aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this? Shouldn’t they be economising by eating at home? How often are they eating out? Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house. There. I’ve said it. I have said what every secret middle-aged moraliser has thought but has never had the courage to verbalise. (Weekend Australian Magazine, 15 October)

Despite the humorous tone, the comments caused a furore in the press and social media, prompting headlines such as ‘Home dreams on toast’, ‘Your smashed avo guide to investing’, and ‘On smashed avo as a social good’. The reaction exposed the generational fault line between older Australians who had access to free education, could afford to buy their own home, and receive tax breaks, generous pension and superannuation entitlements, and their offspring who struggle to save while paying high rents and HECS debts, and who will not receive the same benefits in retirement. The deep resentment felt by the younger generations towards Salt’s ‘middle-aged moralisers’ was encapsulated in the headline: ‘Baby boomers have already taken all the houses, now they’re coming for our brunch!’

In response a number of inner-city cafes dropped the price of smashed avo (renamed on one menu the ‘Retirement Plan’), a bank advertised home loan rates with the slogan ‘Have your smashed avo and eat it too’, and the issue was raised in federal parliament. A member of the House of Representatives noted that to ‘put down a deposit on a typical house in Footscray … you would need to forgo about 38,000 coffees or 150 years’ worth of weekly smashed avocado brunches’.

It will be interesting to see how long smashed avo remains linked with the issue of housing affordability. Perhaps until cafe regulars prefer something else for breakfast?

Smashed avo will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary. It was shortlisted for the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s 2016 Word of the Year.

Oxford Word of the Month: April – Thongophone

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noun: (also thongaphone, thong-o-phone) a percussive musical instrument formed by a series of hollow PVC pipes of varying lengths, the ends of which are struck with a rubber clapper such as a thong.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

In a 2014 posting on the video-sharing website YouTube a man can be seen playing the theme song from popular television series Game of Thrones on what is captioned as a ‘thongophone’. What immediately stands out is that the musician plays the instrument with a pair of thongs, traditional Australian footwear otherwise known as flip-flops, jandals, slides, or slaps. The thongophone looks something like a pipe organ, and the thongs are used to strike the open ends of the pipes to produce low resonant sounds. The novelty of the instrument is apparent in one of the first pieces of evidence for the term:

What’s a thongaphone? I hear you ask. For those who can’t make it to the Merry Muse, I’ll describe the thing. It looks like a cross between a xylophone, a giant set of pan pipes and a plumber’s nightmare and when hit with thongs provides a tuneful bass line. In fact, considering it’s fashioned from PVC piping, it’s surprisingly melodious. (Canberra Times, 4 February 1990)

Much of the evidence for this term highlights the peculiarity of the instrument, its makeshift nature, and its appearance as a do-it-yourself instrument at school events. The earliest reference so far located comes from a 1990 newspaper article in the context of a Circus Oz performance. In this instance the word takes the form thong-o-phone, one of a number of variant forms.

The evidence indicates that the term thongophone is originally Australian, although the instrument itself can be found in South-East Asia, including Papua New Guinea. Another clue to its Australianness is the use of the word thong for the rubber sandal acting as a clapper. While the word thong is also used in North America for this kind of footwear, it is ubiquitous in Australian English and culture. In other varieties of English, thong usually means a narrow strip of leather (or other material), a skimpy bathing garment, or a style of underwear like a G-string.

The existence of two earlier Australian terms for makeshift musical instruments that also end in –phone (lagerphone and Fosterphone) is another pointer to the thongophone’s Australian pedigree. The combining form –phone denotes an instrument using or connected with sound, as in megaphone and xylophone, and ultimately derives from Greek phōnē, ‘sound, voice’. The lagerphone is another improvised musical instrument made by loosely fitting rows of beer-bottle tops to a pole, which is then struck to create a jingling sound. This term goes back to the 1950s and the instrument is commonly found in Australian bush bands. A more recent instrument is the Fosterphone, which is a cardboard beer carton drummed with the hands to create a percussive sound. The term is derived from a blend of the proprietary name Foster’s Lager and lagerphone, with evidence from the 1980s. Thongophone is also likely to have been modelled on lagerphone.

The relative ease of making this instrument from different lengths of PVC pipe, with a cheap pair of thongs as clappers, makes the thongophone a favourite with children. Its novelty and deep resonant percussive sounds see it continue to pop up at festivals and workshops across Australia:

It’s hard not to have fun when you’re banging out a rhythm on a wheelie bin or discovering funky bass riffs on a thongaphone. (Warwick Daily News, 30 March 2011)

Even the Australian Chamber Orchestra is aware of its musical possibilities, here in collaboration with Sydney schoolchildren:

[Richard] Tognetti and ACO musicians will help music teacher and cellist Rachel Scott include students in on a composition for strings, xylophones, chimebars and thongaphone… . (Sydney Southern Courier, 24 May 2011)

 Australia’s thongophone—destined one day for the concert hall?

 Thongophone will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

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Oxford Word of the Month: March – Corflute

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noun: a temporary sign or poster made of corrugated plastic sheeting.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

Another election and another spate of corflute crimes in Gladstone. (Gladstone Observer, 31 May 2016)

2016 was a year of elections, here and elsewhere. It was also a year in which the corflute gained extra traction in our vocabulary.

The corflute is an essential campaign tool. It is a lightweight waterproof sign, usually printed with a candidate’s image, name, and party affiliation (if any). It can be found in shopping centres as a billboard, or cable-tied to trees and fences, or attached to a stake and stuck into the ground alongside roads and highways for the attention of passing motorists.

The word corflute derives from a proprietary name for the corrugated plastic sheeting used for temporary signage, and signs made from this have been a feature of Australian campaigns for many years. However, evidence of corflute in the sense of ‘a temporary sign’ is relatively recent, and dates from about 2000. It occurs chiefly in election contexts.

An early use of the word refers to a couple of disappointed Queensland car thieves:

The thieves, trying to find something of value, had pulled out the back seat to see what was in the boot. … All it contained was two corflutes the car’s owner had souvenired from Premier Peter Beattie and Member for Woodridge Mike Kaiser’s campaigns. (Brisbane Courier-Mail, 17 July 2000)

This item points to a problem associated with the use of corflutes—the ease with which they may be stolen. It is a recurring headache for political candidates. In 2004 the Cairns Post noted that:

Cairns candidates are counting the cost of stolen election signs, with some runners out of pocket more than $500. With still four days to go until the local government polls, corflutes across the city are disappearing daily by the dozen. (24 March)

Partisan vandalism is often suspected: ‘Member for Fisher Peter Slipper released a statement yesterday accusing the LNP and its supporters of conspiring against him by stealing and destroying corflutes.’ (Sunshine Coast Daily, 31 August 2013)

More recently the overuse of campaign corflutes has been regarded as a blot on the landscape:

The Hills Shire Times wants your help to clean up our district. It’s been more than a week since the election but political advertising boards, or corflutes, are still strewn across the Hills. (Hills Shire Times, 5 April 2011)

In the 2016 ACT election voters had to choose from a record number of candidates for an expanded Legislative Assembly. This meant many more signs were put up than usual, and public tolerance was pushed to the limit. It was described as ‘a war of corflutes’ and, post-election, an outlet for public frustration was planned:

In what had been billed as ‘the first ever post-election stomping of the corflutes’, the Like Canberra party called on Canberrans to gather their ‘legally obtained surplus corflutes’ to destroy them in what would be a cathartic experience for many people. Corflute whacking party organiser … Richard Tuffin said there had been a lot of anger about the density of corflutes. (Canberra Times, 16 October 2016)

Not surprisingly, evidence for the word corflute spiked significantly in 2016. With more elections ahead, the ‘stomping of the corflutes’ may catch on.

Corflute will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

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Oxford Word of the Month: February – Black Caviar odds

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nounvery short odds; strong favouritism.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

Black Caviar odds first appears in print in 2011 referring to a possible Reserve Bank cut in the official interest rate on Melbourne Cup Day:

We are now headed for a Cup Day official interest rate cut and the banks will pass it on in full and quickly to borrowers. Both these predictions are at Black Caviar odds and just as certain. (Melbourne Herald Sun, 7 October)

The term refers to the champion racehorse Black Caviar, undefeated in 25 races between 2008 and 2013. Betting on Black Caviar entailed very short odds. This first evidence clearly links the transfer of the literal odds on a horse to anything that is likely to be strongly favoured, and hence not likely to bring in a good return on a bet.

In 2013 the Coalition was seen as the likely winner of the Australian federal election, with the Gold Coast Bulletin reporting that the Coalition was ‘getting into Black Caviar odds of $1.16 to take government in September’. (19 February) Although the term appears here in reference to an election—many Australians are keen to bet on the outcome of any contest—it is more often found in the sporting and horse racing worlds, as in the following examples.

In 2015, Australia faced Afghanistan in a World Cup cricket match and were strongly favoured to win:

Australia will start at Black Caviar odds but have been impressed by Afghanistan’s performances this tournament, most notably pace duo Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran. (Canberra Times, 4 March)

And in 2016 we see it in a horse racing context:

[Trainer Stephen] Lee would be Black Caviar odds to lead in at least one winner from his five starters at his home meeting with every chance the triumph will come early. (Sydney Daily Telegraph 30 April)

Black Caviar odds is a variation of an older Australian English term with the same meaning, Phar Lap odds: ‘Whichever is successful will carry the proverbial ton of money and start at “Phar Lap” odds.’ (Cessnock Eagle, 23 November 1933). Phar Lap is Australia’s most famous racehorse. He won numerous races including the Melbourne Cup, and his success captured Australia’s imagination during the Great Depression. We will have to wait and see if the term Black Caviar odds has the staying power of Phar Lap.

Black Caviar odds will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

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Oxford Word of the Month: January – turbo chook

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noun: a jocular name for the Tasmanian native hen, Tribonyx mortierii.

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORD OF THE MONTH

The Tasmanian native hen is a flightless moorhen endemic to the island of Tasmania. Although it is unrelated to the domestic hen, it was named a ‘native hen’ by the early European settlers, who applied the epithet ‘native’ to many Australian indigenous animals where they saw a resemblance to a familiar European species—hence terms such as native bear (koala), native hedgehog (echidna), and native pheasant (lyrebird).

In 1924 a scientific work gave this description of the Tasmanian native hen: ‘Runs exceeding fast, and many native dogs cannot catch a native hen even in open country.’ (Lord & Scott, A Synopsis of the Vertebrate Animals of Tasmania, 1924) A similar observation was made in 2004: ‘Despite their plump, chicken-like appearance, the Tasmanian Native Hen is estimated to reach speeds up to 50 kmh when its little legs wind up.’ (Launceston Examiner, 17 July) The comments about its speed and appearance suggest why it has recently been given the colloquial name turbo chook.

The first evidence for turbo chook occurs in a 2003 travel article about Maria Island, Tasmania, in which the writer mentions that native hens are called turbo chooks, ‘though these ones seem to have lost a few revs’. (Australian, 1 March) The turbo element of turbo chook is an abbreviation of turbocharged, referring to something that operates at an accelerated speed or goes at a fast pace. The second element, chook, is an Australian colloquial term for a domestic fowl dating from the 1850s. It is derived from a British dialect word, chuck(y), with the same meaning. There is some evidence from the early 20th century of the term chook being applied to other birds, including the emu, but this is rare.

In recent years the term turbo chook has become more widely known in Tasmania, as these examples show:

Tasmania now has its own official flower and animal emblems. May I suggest the black currawong as our bird. It is large and robust, a great image, but also friendly. The only other contender in my opinion is the native hen or ‘turbo chook’ but it hasn’t quite got the image or what it takes. (Launceston Examiner, 15 June 2015)

I just dodged a turbo chook and hit a telegraph pole after eating some crayfish and flatties. (Hobart Mercury, 4 September 2016)

Turbo chook was probably used informally in Tasmania for some time before it occurred in the written record in the early 2000s. Although usage is largely confined to Tasmania where the bird is found, its appearance in the title of a popular 2013 children’s picture book, Sonia Strong’s Tazzie the Turbo Chook Finds Her Feet, indicates that the term may become more generally known in Australian English.

Turbo chook will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

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Australian Word of the Year 2016

Democracy sausage has been named Australian Word of the Year 2016.
he_word_of_the_year_infograpihc_sausageDemocracy sausage: A barbecued sausage served on a slice of bread, bought at a polling booth sausage sizzle on election day.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre, based at The Australian National University, selected democracy sausage because of its increased prominence in Australia in a year of election campaigns.

Democracy sausage was chosen from a shortlist which included census fail, smashed avo, shoey, deplorables and Ausexit.

For more information on the Australian Word of the Year click here.

The 2016 Word of the Year and shortlist are selected by the editorial staff of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, who with Oxford University Press publishes the Australian National Dictionary of words and phrases unique to Australia.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre undertakes research into Australian English in partnership with Oxford University Press, and edits Australian dictionaries for Oxford University Press.

The Word of the Year is based on extensive research as well as public suggestions. Vote for your 2016 Australian Word of the Year:


Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth. For more information read their blog post.

View the previous Words of the Year on the ANDC blog page:

2015 – sharing economy
2014 – shirtfront
2013 – bitcoin
2012 – green-on-blue

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