10 New Words 2016

Every year the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) adds new words, here is our pick from 2016 – 10 words that sum up the year’s social developments perfectly, how to pronounce them and what they mean:

non-apology /ˌnɒnəˈpɒlədʒi/

A non-apology, otherwise known as a ‘non-apology apology’, is when you say sorry, but your statement doesn’t seem to actually express sorrow or regret. You can do this purely with intonation: “I’m so sorry” is remarkably less convincing than “I’m so sorry”. But the best non-apologies tend to turn the tables on the listener, for example, “I’m sorry that you were offended by what I said because you aren’t able to get my humour”. 

moobs /ˈmuːbz/

Ostensibly a combination of the word ‘man’ and the word ‘boobs’, in the exact words of Oxford Dictionaries, moobs are: ‘deposits of excess fat on a man’s chest that resemble a woman’s breasts.’ Now, where did I put my ‘mra’ and my ‘mikini’.

post-truth /ˌpəʊsˈtruːθ/

If you regularly push facts into letterboxes, then it’s fair to say you post truth. But add a hyphen, and you get the adjective ‘post-truth’, which admittedly sounds the same, but means something very different. It’s a world in which facts are totally insignificant, an era that probably began this year in Britain when a pro-Brexit MP declared that “people in this country have had enough of experts”. Do you agree? Answers on a postcard, please.

adulting /ˈædʌltɪŋ/

The most sinister sounding new entry this year, it’s when young people engage in mundane activities associated with adulthood and follows a long trend of nouns becoming verbs in English, even though this one has become a noun again with ‘-ing’ on it. Examples of adulting are: getting a job you don’t like; improving your skills in domestic waste management; being nice to people as a rule not an exception; and starting a family on purpose, rather than by accident.

uptalk /ˈʌptɔːk/

The Oxford dictionaries are famously slow at adding new words. But in the case of uptalk, which appeared 30 years ago, they are really, really slow. It’s when speakers use a rising tone on just about everything they say. I love it, but some people find it annoying. Oh and it’s sometimes referred to as ‘upspeak’ instead.

gender-fluid /ˌdʒendə ˈfluːɪd/

Unlike brake fluid, gender-fluid is not a liquid, and is not always found in cars. The stress goes on both words in the compound – ˌgender-ˈfluid, it’s an adjective that describes those that feel masculine sometimes, and feminine at others without referring to their sexuality.


YOLO /ˈjəʊləʊ/

Certainly the most annoying new entry this year, this is an acronym for “You Only Live Once”, and has been blamed for all sorts of reckless behaviour, like jumping off balconies and shooting oneself in the head. We asked an East London hipster what YOLO means to him:


coulrophobia /ˌkɒɫrəˈfəʊbiə/

Q Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?
A Because they taste funny.
Well, that’s one possibility, another is that some cannibals suffer from coulrophobia – a fear of clowns. As with all words ending in -phobia, the stress is on the ending ‘ˌcoulroˈphobia’. Its inclusion in the OED coincides with seemingly random sightings of ‘evil clowns’ in innocuous settings everywhere from Australia to Mexico including dozens in the UK, mainly targetted at children. Scary!

chatbot /ˈtʃæʔbɒt/

Obviously, being a pronunciation school, we couldn’t resist this – robots who simulate real conversation with humans and collectively develop their conversational skills through Artificial Intelligence. So we asked a real online chatbot called Mitsuku how to pronounce ‘chatbot’ and this is what she replied:


Silly robot, everyone knows that the first ’t’ in chatbot is actually pronounced as a glottal stop, so it’s safe to say we won’t be swapping our teachers for CHATBOTS just yet.

hygge /ˈhʊgə/

Amidst all the doom and gloom, here is a word to warm the cockles. It’s a Danish concept that describes a general feeling of wellbeing brought about by cosiness and comfort in everyday objects and situations. The only stressful thing about it, is how on earth should we pronounce it in English, I mean, what is that spelling? OED reliably informs us we can go for /ˈhʊgə/ or /ˈhjuːgə/. So now we’ve solved that mystery, it’s time to light the log fire, pour some coffee, invite the neighbours round and experience some authentic Hygge, and perhaps a Hug, too.