Dictionary.com’s word of 2017 is all about “responsibility and culpability,” says lexicographer Jane Soloman.
The site defines “complicit,” as “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others.”
The company said it picked the word because it’s “indicative of larger trends that resonated throughout the year.”
It also noted the term has been used frequently in U.S. culture and politics in stories about Russian election influence, mass shootings and widespread allegations of sexual assault and harassment.
Soloman, a lexicographer who was involved in the decision, spoke with As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about the word’s relevance in 2017.
How did the number of look-ups for complicit compared to previous years?
Look-ups for the word complicit went up 300 per cent in 2017 as compared to 2016.
Russian election influence, the ever-widening sexual harassment scandal, mass shootings and the opioid epidemic helped elevate the word ‘complicit’ as Dictionary.com’s word of the year. (The Associated Press)
Do you think the people who are looking it up really don`t know what it means?
I think that sometimes people look up words in the dictionary because they don’t know what it means, but many times, people are going to a dictionary because they know what it means but they want to check to see if it means exactly what they think it means. There are a lot of reasons to look up a word in a dictionary beyond, “I don’t know what it means.”
Now in terms of complicit, I understand you’ve identified a number of spikes in searches for the word. The first came after an episode of Saturday Night Live.
Saturday Night Live made a perfume commercial spoof. It was starring Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump and it was selling a scent called Complicit.’The tagline for this scent was, “The fragrance for the woman who could stop all this but won’t.”
As It Happens