Without preamble, here we go.
Woke. This one is particularly irksome. High on the irony scale. “Woke” may have multiple origins, but the most contemporary one appears to be from early 20th century Black consciousness raising–”stay woke” appeared in a narrative about a Lead Belly recording of the song “Statesboro Blues”, according to Vox. To me it reeks of irony because its adopted in rhetoric mostly used by groups whose allegiances include bigotry and racism.
Culture wars. This phrase, used to describe social conflicts, was first used in mid-19th century Germany in reference to a conflict between “cultural and religious groups.” (Wiki) The phrase owes its current popularity—talk about over-exposure—to deep-seated conflict between social groups in the U.S. over societal issues. Second Amendment rights, abortion rights, immigration rights, LGBT etc rights. the word “War” signifies a more hopeless situation than the words “conflict” or “disagreement”, but likely those participating in culture wars are allergic to euphemism.
Othering. This is a portmanteau word I wish had never been invented. In looking for origins, I traveled a confusing road from Hegel to feminist theory. But it seems the rampant use of this word stems from the realization of culturally (that word again) disadvantaged groups that they can call out discrimination and disrespect by using “othering” to describe their state. “You are othering me” has a hint of whinging, to use one of my favorite Britishisms. Not to disrespect these struggles, but please come up with another word.
Critical race theory (CRT). Ah, misinterpretation of this idea has become a favorite catch-phrase of the ultra right who would like to pull us back into their idea of comfortable racism. The September 20, 2021 issue of The New Yorker features a profile of Derrick Bell, who described how our deeply rooted racism undermines every step forward toward true civil rights. Irony scale ranking very high. The right wing is busily digging the dirt out from under our feet.
Unpack. Joins circle back, out of the box, utilize (substituted for the more than useful word “use”) and piggybacking in the box of time-worn vocabulary.
Cancel culture. (Circling back to “culture”.) Despise this phrase. Just. Simply. Despise. Another example of “cultural appropriation”, largely pulled out on Twitter by the right, again, to describe being deleted from Twitter for trolling and spreading theories about nanobots in vaccines. A popular song is given the prize for its origin in what is called “African-American Vernacular English” (Wiki). Sound familiar? (See “woke” above).
Red pill, Blue pill. Matrix (1999) is one of my favorite films. In it, Neo is given a choice between remaining in blissful virtual reality, or being shown a horrifying truth about human existence. He chooses the red pill–the one of truth. Not truthiness, or alternative facts–that’s the blue pill.
Bae. Every time this one shows up in crossword puzzles, I feel nauseous. Also bro. And nae nae.
Peoples. I don’t know why this word makes me cringe. Pretentious at the same time descriptive when scientists need to talk about anthropology and the history of humans. But I just don’t like it. Just that. I don’t think Galadriel would have ever used it to describe Middle Earth inhabitants. (See intro to Peter Gordon’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.)
The problem with my list is that technically I only came up with 9 words. What is number 10? I couldn’t think of one in time to get this blog scheduled.
So, what words would you add?