The Oxford Word of the Year tells a concise story about how many of us are doing these days.
Monday, December 12, 2022

Here’s the latest installment of “The Good Word,” the column in which our crossword editor, Caleb Madison, dives deep into the most interesting words and phrases of the moment. Did someone forward you this newsletter? Sign up here.

Three switches labeled "beast," "sicko," and "goblin." The "goblin" switch is red and turned on (The Atlantic; Getty)

We’re All Capable of Going ‘Goblin Mode’

The people have spoken about what the people have spoken: The 2022 Oxford Word of the Year, chosen for the first time ever by public vote, went to goblin mode by a 93 percent majority. Oxford defines goblin mode as “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” It’s a gloriously evocative phrase—and it tells a concise story about how many of us are doing these days.

The first record of goblin mode occurred in 2009, when someone tweeted: “m was in full hyperactive goblin mode last night. it was as if she ate a bag of sugar-coated candy, then washed it down with a few red bulls.” Not much is known about m or the specifics of her behavior on that fateful night, but the description is vivid: Her primal side had been unleashed. Although the post received a lukewarm 22 likes, going goblin mode described a condition that, more than a decade later, has become all too familiar.

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