Dictionary.com’s Word of the Year is incredibly depressing

On Monday, November 26th, Dictionary.com unveiled “misinformation” as 2018’s Word of the Year—and it’s a depressing sign of the times. Misinformation was deliberately chosen over “disinformation,” said Dictionary’s linguist-in-residence, Jane Solomon, and the choice is intended to serve as a “call to action.”

"The rampant spread of misinformation is really providing new challenges for navigating life in 2018," Solomon told the AP (per NBC News). "Misinformation has been around for a long time, but over the last decade or so the rise of social media has really, really changed how information is shared. We believe that understanding the concept of misinformation is vital to identifying misinformation as we encounter it in the wild, and that could ultimately help curb its impact."

Misinformation, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” It follows 2017’s “complicit” and 2016’s “xenophobia.”

Solomon said that the public’s “relationship with truth” was at the root of the majority of the site’s top searches. Other buzzwords of 2018 were “mainstream,” “white lie” (in regard to former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks admitting she told “a few” for the president), and “Orwellian” (after White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused the Chinese government of “Orwellian nonsense”).

"Disinformation would have also been a really, really interesting word of the year this year, but our choice of misinformation was very intentional," Solomon said.

She explained that disinformation, defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts, propaganda,” is an external examination of others’ behavior and causes finger-pointing. Spreading misinformation, on the other hand, can be an internal struggle, and our awareness of its meaning can help us reevaluate our own behavior.

"It's a word of self-reflection, and in that it can be a call to action. You can still be a good person with no nefarious agenda and still spread misinformation," Solomon continued.

Dictionary.com’s choice may be a downer, but it’s also a critical reminder to do our research and ensure we know the facts before we click that “share” button.

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