“Goblin mode”, a slang term that captures post-pandemic rejection of a return to “normal life”, has been named “word of the year” by Oxford University Press.
The slang term is often adopted in expressions such as “being in goblin mode”, or “going goblin mode”. It is defined as “a type of behaviour that is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly or greedy”.
Use of the term rose in the months following the pandemic when a return to office work increased the desire to stay home and embrace your “inner goblin”.
The comfort of being in “goblin mode” is something that many people got used to when working from home meant not needing to get out of their pyjamas, watching endless television and staying in the house at all times.
Spirit of rebellion
As a result, the public’s selection of “goblin mode” for “word of the year” encompasses the 2022 spirit of rebelling against “social norms or expectations”.
Ben Zimmer, US linguist and lexicographer, said: “Goblin mode really does speak to the times and the zeitgeist, and it is certainly a 2022 expression. People are looking at social norms in new ways. It gives people the licence to ditch social norms and embrace new ones.”
The popularity of “goblin mode” as a term stemmed from its use on social media, with a huge spike in March 2022 when a doctored quote from Julia Fox went viral.
Social media has also encouraged the normalisation of “goblin mode”. Many people use it to rebel against unattainable aesthetics pushed by lifestyle influencers on social platforms.
Self-indulgent moments in goblin mode
Casper Grathwohl, president at Oxford Languages, said: “This has been demonstrated by the dramatic rise of platforms like BeReal where users share images of their unedited selves, often capturing self-indulgent moments in goblin mode.
“People are embracing their inner goblin, and voters choosing ‘goblin mode’ as the word of the year tells us the concept is likely here to stay.”
This year marks the first time Oxford University Press’s “word of the year” was selected by public vote. The winner achieved a landslide victory with 93 per cent of the overall vote.
Over 340,000 people worldwide voted for the “word of the year”, choosing between three options curated by Oxford language lexicographers: “goblin mode”, “metaverse” and “#IStandWith”.
The runner-up, “metaverse”, refers to a hypothetical “virtual reality environment”. It gained popularity when the conglomerate behind Facebook and Instagram changed its name to Meta in October 2021.
“#IStandWith” is a reference to solidarity campaigns on social media. The phrase gained popularity in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when “#IStandWithUkraine” and “#StandWithUkraine” were frequently used.