It was the year of COVFEFE. (Pic: Menahem Kahana)
It was the year of COVFEFE. (Pic: Menahem Kahana)

The 2017 words I don’t want to hear again

IT'S that time of year when we try to sum up the last 12 months through lists, pictures and even single words.

Everything, it seems, is geared towards speaking to who we are as a nation today. "Here are the top 19 microwave meals of 2017 - and what they reveal about Australia now."

Next it'll be onomatopoeia, such is our greedy appetite for brevity. The year summed up in grunts, growls, pops and oinks. And that's just parliament's upper house.

And so, in what isn't at all a marketing exercise to keep dictionary PRs busy over silly season, it's around now that many dictionaries announce their 'word of the year' as a brutally concise linguistic reflection of the past 365 days. Past Australian winners include democracy sausage, fake news and mansplain, or to summarise three years in four words: lunch with Kevin Rudd.

Which other country on earth than Germany, of course, would quirkily disrupt such an annual lexical tradition? In a delicious subversion of the trend, since 1991, Germany - home of the never-ending word - has selected a "non-word of the year" ("Unwort des Jahres"). Chosen by a linguists' panel, in 2015, their Unwort was "Luegenpresse" (lying press) for its connection to the Nazi-era. In 2016, it was "Volksverräter" - meaning "traitor of the people" - also for Nazi connections.

Milo Yiannopoulos and Mark Latham are both fans of making ‘snowflake’ happen. (Pic: Nathan Richter)
Milo Yiannopoulos and Mark Latham are both fans of making ‘snowflake’ happen. (Pic: Nathan Richter)

So, in this one-man linguists' panel, here's what I suggest are the strongest contenders for Australia's non-word (or short phrase) of the year 2017. But only one can be sent to room 101, and for that, I'll need your help in the comments below.


The Australian National Dictionary Centre selected it as their word of the year 2017, but had to dash out a statement responding to the 99 per cent of the population who'd never heard of it. Apparently it's a portmanteau of Kiwi and Aussie, like Barnaby Joyce, but many saw it for what it was: an attempt to jump on the dual citizenship Zeitgeist with a blatant non-word.


I call bullshit. I smell a clever strategy from the blueberry marketing board.


This non-word springs up everywhere, and springs up for the same reason every time: it's a marketing ploy to persuade us to buy pointless minerals/potions/concoctions we don't need. The "wellness industry" is corrupt, money-grabbing and evidence free, making the word meaningless. A wellness festival is no more than snake oil salespeople cashing in.


A portmanteau of Friday and yay.

Yeah, no.

In 2017, wellness is next to godliness. (Pic: supplied)
In 2017, wellness is next to godliness. (Pic: supplied)


"Despite the negative press covfefe" read one of Trump's infamous and more mysterious tweets in May. The internet went wild with conspiracy theories. Was he supposed to write coverage? The nearest spelling correction was coffee, was it just that he needed some to wake up and spell correctly? Translated into Russian, Google Translate suggest it means 'Soviet.' Curious. "Covfefe and chill" read one disturbingly photo-captioned meme.


Who'd ever heard of one outside the Canberra bubble before 2017, and who never wants to hear of one again? It can be arranged.


When both those on the left AND those on the right call each other delicate little snowflakes for taking offence too easily, we've reached stalemate. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not use this meaningless word again. Do not take offence so easily.

Innovation agenda

What's on Turnbull's agenda here? He just responds with two more non-words: the ideas boom. What? We'd google it, except the glacial NBN is just showing the wheel of doom …


When a politician puts their foot in their mouth. We use to call it a gaffe, or a stuff up. Now they try to conceal the error with the non-verb "misspoke." We see straight through it, obviously.


Being awe-struck should only occur a handful of times in your entire life, such as seeing one of the world's seven wonders, or witnessing Cher's 403rd farewell tour. We've bankrupted this superlative to the point that it's impotent of all its former glory and power.

Squad goals

Goal #1: stop speaking like it's 2014 and you're 13.

Brexit happened, and things are getting weird. (Pic: Daniel Leal-Olivas)
Brexit happened, and things are getting weird. (Pic: Daniel Leal-Olivas)


Increasingly used to shame us into eating anything other than steamed steam, encouraging us to starve ourselves skinny: the opposite of the healthy lifestyle it purports to describe. Some dating app users are putting 'clean' on their profile in place of 'HIV negative.' Neither being HIV positive or eating something other than organic kale is "dirty" so, by default, their opposites are not "clean."

RTs are not endorsements

What are they then? Why does everything have to now come with a caveat?


The Scandinavian ritual of enjoying life's simple pleasures that has taken off here, if you believe the internet. Ikea's way of flogging unsellable scented candles is my hot take.


It was fun for a year, but I'm legit done with it now.

Lab or pod

Cute, three-lettered hipster words to upsell any 2m x 2m space as prime real estate.


Finding your 'calling' is problematic on many levels, especially for those of us who don't believe in sky wizards. But even if you do, it puts such pressure on people to find the thing they excel at. What if we're just good at stuff, and don't surpass all others in a chosen passionate field? It happens. And that's fine.


Because wouldn't it be great if this wasn't a word or a real concept?

What'd be your non-word of the year?

Follow Gary Nunn on Twitter at @garynunn1