A phrase that was broadly used in 2016 when Donald Trump first took hold of the White House has been crowned the “word of the decade”.
“Fake news” outperformed other popular phrases that have cemented their place in modern vernacular over the last 10 years, including “Karen” that was the people’s choice last year.
After an interesting year for new words, a team of Macquarie Dictionary researchers compiled the winners of “word of the year” over the last decade and asked Australians to vote for the one they resonated with the most.
“Fake news” was the committee’s choice in 2016 and beat the likes of “mansplain” and “first world problems”.
Even though many may associate “fake news” with Mr Trump’s US presidential campaign, it was floating around before. But the four years that followed Mr Trump’s election that truly solidified it in popular dialect.
“It became part of our lives so quickly and was so overwhelming that school courses had to be developed to teach children strategies for detecting fake news,” study authors said.
According to the dictionary, the word has gained a second meaning and is also used to “refer to information that is viewed as being opposed or detrimental to someone’s own position – whether it is factual or not”.
“Words are powerful and the ease with which we see this term being thrown around to instantly rob something of its credibility can be very damaging,” the authors said.
“It looks like it’s a term that’s here to stay.”
Other notable terms on the list that were campaign or politically driven included “cancel culture”, “Me Too” and “single-use”.
The #MeToo movement gained momentum in 2018 after the case against former film producer and convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein was brought to light. It was a social movement against the sexual abuse and harassment of women where victims were urged to publicise alleged sex crimes.
“Single-use” was the people’s choice during the same year after the issue of global warming and climate change was propelled into the spotlight.
And in 2020, as the coronavirus crisis took hold, “Karens” were given a bad name.
“Karen” became a widespread meme referring to a specific type of middle-class white woman who exhibits behaviours that stem from privilege – like someone who belittles retail staff because they don’t want to wear a mask during a pandemic.
2011: Burkini (committee’s choice), fracking (people’s choice)
2012: Phantom vibration syndrome (committee’s choice), First World Problem (people’s choice)
2013: Infovore (committee’s choice), onesie (people’s choice)
2014: Mansplain (committee’s choice), share plate (people’s choice)
2015: Captain’s call (committee’s choice and people’s choice)
2016: Fake news (committee’s choice), halal snack pack (people’s choice)
2017: Milkshake duck (committee’s choice), framily (people’s choice)
2018: Me Too (committee’s choice), single-use (People’s choice)
2019: Cancel culture (committee’s choice), robodebt (people’s choice)
2020: Doomscrolling (committee’s choice), Karen (people’s choice)
Last year, linguistics in the US chose “they” as their word of the decade as a nod to the growing use of third-person plural pronouns.
People who are transgender or non-binary may choose to use pronouns such as “they, them or theirs”.