Dictionary.com recently announced that the 2017 Word of the Year is complicit. Complicit means “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others.” While the word was chosen by the dictionary’s in house experts, their reasoning bears scrutiny.
According to Liz McMillan, the CEO of Dicitonary.com, “Lookups for the word complicit increased by nearly 300 percent in searches in 2017 as compared to 2016.” The online company notice that the spikes in searches for the word complicit coincided with newsworthy event involving celebrities and political figures. For example, when Scarlett Johansson spoofed Ivanka Trump on Saturday Night Live, she promoted a fake perfume name Complicit. The first surge of complicit word searches spiked.
Complicit became the star of the show again when news of President Trump’s potential collusion with the Russians went public, but he was not the only famous person associate with the Word of the Year. So was actor Kevin Spacey, film executive Harvey Weistein, comedian Louis C.K., and Senator Jeff Flake.
If the popularity of words say anything about our society, then we are busy questioning the actions of others and finding them wanting. More than any other time in our history, we have access to the skeletons in the closets.
The question then becomes what are we willing to do about it? Do we treat these potentially scandalous acts as jokes or another form of reality TV entertainment to be laughed off, or do we as a people stand up and demand higher ethics from our celebrities and elected officials?
No matter the answer, the people have spoken. Complicit will enjoy its fifteen minutes of stardom until people move on to more complicated words, like heinous, equality, diminished returns, pretension, and ice cream.
I vote for ice cream.