2023 Word of the Year (Sneak Preview)

January 25, 2023

 “For last year's words belong to last year's language,

  And next year's words await another voice."            

                                             --T.S. Eliot - Four Quartets


If you’re like me (and if you are, God help you), you pay close attention to the annual reveal of the Word(s) of the Year. For a writer, this announcement means far more than any Oscar or Grammy. These are the tools of the trade! I’m always very eager to see if I used the winners in my prose often enough.

There are several sources for the Word of the Year distinction, including the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster. Inevitably, I smack my head ruefully, regretting my neglect of these gems while they were still “in.”

For 2022, these oh so trendy words included “gaslighting" (Merriam-Webster) “woman”(??? that head scratcher was from and, of course, “goblin mode” (OED). I guess now that I think of it, I do use “woman” a fair amount, and maybe “gaslight” now and then. But “goblin mode”??? Not ONCE did that escape my lips. I assume it’s a veddy British thing, because no one in my acquaintance uses it either, but it must be absolutely everywhere in the UK--goblin mode Halloween costumes! Goblin (à la) mode desserts! Barristers dancing the “goblin mode” in court in their silly looking wigs!

When I did a deeper dive, (that’s what you pay me for, right?) I discovered the actual definition of “goblin mode”: a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” Ohhhhh, so THAT’S what it means! I know lots of people this applies to, like every one year old I’ve ever known-- those slovenly toddlers with their toy-grabbing, their napping, their messy diapers!

Even armed with this knowledge, though, “goblin mode” just doesn’t work for me (sorry, OED). So, in advance of the 2023 competition, I’ve decided to start pushing for my candidate well ahead of time. I will utilize it in essays, in conversations, on shopping lists! By December, the world will unanimously agree with my choice, just because they’ve encountered it so darned much!


I  propose: “cringe."

Recently added to Merriam-Webster, this teen fave (universally used to describe parental units) means “something so embarrassing it makes one perform the act of cringing.” I mean, is there anyone who doesn’t think the way most of humanity is behaving is cringe? From all those serially lying politicians, to the army of entitled and fussy “Karens” (and I am SO sorry this is a thing, all my fabulous buddies actually named Karen), there’s more than enough cringe to go around. I hear people still denying the reality of climate change, I see people wearing white tube socks with black dress shoes in public (sometimes they’re the same people) and…cringe!

But it’s not too late, folks. We don’t HAVE to be total embarrassments! If we start now and work on being tons less cringe, 2023 may end on a much more uplifting note than 2022 did.

And if I have to change my Word of the Year, it’ll be worth it.


    I am an author (of five books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a retired director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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