Teal, spicy cough and bachelor’s handbag: the contenders for Macquarie Dictionary’s 2022 word of the year

Is bossware crimping your quiet quitting? Has the spicy cough left you in permanent goblin mode? Does Lily-Rose Depp’s fame really come down to being a nepo baby?

The Macquarie Dictionary’s 2022 word of the year shortlist was released Monday and for a third year running the contenders reflect the way Covid has affected our language.

Last year’s winner was strollout (coined by union chief Sally McManus to criticise Morrison’s botched job on the vaccine rollout), while 2020 saw doomscrolling take out the top etymological prize (with honourable mention for the “rona”).

Perhaps it is an increasingly Orwellian reality that has inspired “bossware” – as in the “software installed on an employee’s computer which allows their employer to remotely monitor and measure activity”. It is on the list.

And this kind of technology was largely a reaction against the “e-change,” meaning people no longer have to wait until retirement for a sea/tree change thanks to the ability to work remotely.

Other contenders like “skin hunger”, “quiet quitting,” and “goblin mode” can also be seen as lingering responses to our lockdown experiences.

The 2022 shortlist was chosen from 15 categories from arts to business, but Covid, Australian politics and online culture are the dominant influences.

While well-known terms like “spicy cough” made the list, you might only have heard of “nepo baby” recently with Lily-Rose Depp accused of being one. The insinuation being that Lily-Rose only gained her high profile as a result of her parents (Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis’) fame did not sit well with the young actor, but Italian model Vittoria Ceretti called for nepo babies to check their privilege.

The plight of Australia’s most vulnerable communities are highlighted in the shortlist with “hidden homeless” and “truth telling” signalling the urgency of the housing crisis and justice for Australia’s First Nations people.

With much debate over the “teal” candidates at the federal election in May, the term in now on the Macquarie Dictionary list.

The increasing mobilisation of people demanding change is also reflected in “brigading” (the organisation of a concerted effort by a large number of people to effect a particular action or change) and “clapter” (applause from an audience to indicate agreement with a comedian’s joke or statement, especially one of a social or political nature).

Barbiecore follows cottagecore’s nomination in 2020, with this trend coming hot on the heels of Margo Robbie bringing the doll to the big screen in Greta Gerwig’s upcoming film.

The verb to “yassify” has come to mean the multiple filters and edits applied to an image, in order to transform the original to the standard of beautify popularised by the Yas Queen Twitter account.

First there was the bachelor’s napkin (paper napkins). Now there’s the “bachelor’s handbag”, a takeaway supermarket roast chicken packaged in a small plastic bag with a handle, resembling a handbag.

There are 19 contenders, picked from the new words that have entered the dictionary over the past year.

The committee will choose the official word of the year but voting for the people’s choice award is now open.

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