CULTURE

The Oxford English Dictionary Goes “Goblin Mode”

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 24: Julia Fox is seen, outside Schiaparelli, during Paris Fashion Week - Hau...
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This year, the Oxford English Dictionary zigged where other publications zagged, choosing a word of the year so very online that anyone not deeply tuned into pop culture and internet slang will surely have to look up — though maybe that’s the point.

The OED’s 2022 word, or rather phrase of the year is “goblin mode,” a term referring to “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”

The term has technically been floating around Twitter since 2009, and may have roots in “beast mode,” which can be traced all the way back to the 1988 Sega video game Altered Beast. But goblin mode made its formal entry into wider usage this year with a viral, satirical tweet that played on the ceaseless headlines breathlessly following every move of then-couple Julia Fox and Kanye West. The tweet included a fake headline stating, "Julia Fox opened up about her 'difficult' relationship with Kanye West 'He didn't like when I went goblin mode.'" Outlets credibly reported on the story, prompting Fox herself to clarify on Instagram Stories that she had never used the term.

“New words catch on when they capture our imagination, or fill a hole with a word for a concept we need to express,” Katherine Connor Martin, product director at Oxford Languages, told the New York Times. “What ‘goblin mode’ tells me is it resonated with the feeling that the pandemic is over, but we’re still grappling with it. Do we want to go back to the notions of respectability of the prepandemic world?”

Notably, this is the first year the OED chose its word via popular vote, asking readers to select between “#IStandWith,” “metaverse” and the winner. 93 percent of the more than 340,000 votes cast reportedly went with “goblin mode.”

“Having a group of people in Oxford choose it always felt weirdly undemocratic,” Martin said. “And this year, when people are talking about democracy as a thing that might be under threat, it didn’t feel like the right approach.”

Like Fox, “goblin mode” is for the people.