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Our View: ‘Goblin mode’: Who uses Oxford’s word of the year?

Not many, according to our unofficial poll

Of all the words that could be 2022’s word of the year, Oxford Languages, the venerable publisher of The Oxford English Dictionary, has settled on a choice that left us with a resounding, huh? “Goblin mode.”

Yes, that’s it. Goblin mode. Who says goblin mode?

Apparently, it’s slang to describe “a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations,” according to Oxford Languages on Monday, based on its first-ever public vote.

So imagine an unwashed person in unwashed sweats with greasy hair, dipping fingers into a peanut butter jar while watching the trashiest of TV with the detritus of other days like this around her. Then licking the peanut butter from her fingers before heading out to – bad-case scenario – vandalize mailboxes.

The definition may speak to the times on the heels of the worst of COVID-19, when so many people worked from home and dishes piled in sinks because no one came over. But wouldn’t we have to use these words in common, natural conversations for goblin mode to achieve the stature and meteoric rise to word of the year?

Oxford came to this decision by way of a public vote by ... maybe, goblins? Apparently, the online popular vote was a landslide. But this smells of trending by Gen Zers – one segment of our population – rather than actual words spilling from many mouths. Word of the year, this does not make. Oxford, you’ve been played. The ballot box was stuffed. Fraud! Recount!

We did our own unofficial, unscientific poll. We cast a relatively wide net over two days and asked co-workers, family members, friends, acquaintances and strangers – including multiple Gen Zers. Restaurant workers, baristas, landlords, Uber drivers, some napping students. We then had them interrogate people in their own circles.

The results of our summary: two people vaguely familiar with goblin mode. One family member’s roommate’s sometime boyfriend had heard mention of goblin mode, but had not used the term himself. And what does he know? He is discounted as a reliable source.

And a co-worker’s former high school student had referred to goblin mode.

That’s it.

Oxford’s short list included “metaverse” and hashtag “#IStandWith.” We are geeky word people. We could have helped out. Off the top of our heads, what about “woke” or “long COVID” or “angertainment?” Words that epitomized 2022 more than goblin mode.

And Oxford, we don’t know how you missed it, but goblin mode is actually two words – not one. This oversight has us questioning how exacting your more than 150-year-old institution really is.

Goblin mode came to life in February in a satirical viral tweet, which featured it in a fake headline about the short-lived romance between actress Julia Fox (“Uncut Gems,” “No Sudden Move”) and rapper Kanye West, who now goes by Ye. The tweet addressed Fox’s difficult relationship with Ye. The doctored headline: “He didn’t like when I went goblin mode.”

At the time, Fox clarified: “Just for the record. I have never used the term ‘goblin mode.’”

OK, we’re connecting the dots. Anything about West – oops, Ye – lives inside a sphere of weirdness and untruths. This is a man who has trouble making friends with nice people. Infamously, Ye bought a house next to ex-wife Kim Kardashian and dressed up as a bush to spy on her. Even for Ye, this is bizarre.

We’re onto something here. Goblin mode and Ye. Neither makes a lick of sense.