Russian election influence, the ever-widening sexual harassment scandal, mass shootings and the opioid epidemic helped elevate the word “complicit” as the Dictionary.com word of the year for 2017.
Look-ups of the word increased nearly 300% over the last year, lexicographer Jane Solomon said.
“This year a conversation that keeps on surfacing is what exactly it means to be complicit,” she said. “Complicit has sprung up in conversations about those who speak out against powerful figures in institutions, and those who stay silent.”
The first of three major spikes for the word struck on March 12, the day after Saturday Night Liveaired a sketch starring Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump in a glittery gold dress peddling a fragrance called “Complicit” because: “She’s beautiful, she’s powerful, she’s complicit.”
The bump was followed by another on April 5 also related to Ivanka, Solomon said. It was the day after she appeared on CBS This Morningand told Gayle King, among other things: “I don’t know what it means to be complicit.” It was unclear if Ivanka was deflecting or whether the economics graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business really didn’t know.
Another major spike occurred on October 24, the day the Arizona Republican Jeff Flake announced from the Senate floor that he would not seek re-election, harshly criticized Donald Trump and urged other members of the party not to stand silently with the president.
“I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr President, I will not be complicit,” Flake said.
Solomon said several other major events had contributed to interest in the word. They include the rise of the opioid epidemic and how it came to pass, along with the spread of sexual harassment and assault allegations against an ever-growing list of powerful men, including the film mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The scandal that started in Hollywood and quickly spread across industries has led to a mountain of questions over who knew what, who might have contributed and what it means to stay silent.
involved with others in reprehensible or illegal activity
But my silence was not only wrong; I am complicit on some level in nurturing the “rape culture” that we see today in our country.
——What Trait Do Bill Cosby’s Defenders Share?Dean Obeidallah November 26, 2014
While Solomon shared percentage increases for “complicit”, the company would not disclose the number of look-ups, calling that data proprietary. Dictionary.com chooses its word of the year by scouring look-ups by day, month and year to date and how they correspond to noteworthy events, Solomon said. This year, a lot of high-volume trends unsurprisingly corresponded to politics.
Horologist, as in master clockmaker, such as the one featured in the podcast S-Town. All seven episodes were released at once in March.
Totality saw look-up spikes in August, due to the solar eclipse and the narrow strip of land where the sun was completely obscured by the moon.