Oxford’s Word of the Year: "Goblin Mode"


Goblin Valley State Park, Utah. Photo by Doug Marrin.

The Oxford Word of the Year for 2022 is goblin mode.

I’ve never heard of it, but I like it.

According to the Oxford Languages website, “‘Goblin mode’ – a slang term, often used in the expressions ‘in goblin mode’ or ‘to go goblin mode’ – is ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.’”

Oxford’s Word of the Year is a people’s choice award. Over 300,000 people voted in the survey that ultimately chose goblin mode. Metaverse
came in second, and #IStandWith came in third.

Oxford reports goblin mode was first seen on Twitter in 2009, where it lay dormant for the next 13 years. In February 2022, the term rose from the bowels of Mordor in a fake headline tweet and went viral. As pandemic restrictions were eased worldwide and people squinted into the daylight, the lingering sour disposition latched onto the phrase to describe the rejection of the idea of returning to “normal life.” As a caveat, goblin mode was used to revolt against the surreal Rivendellesque standards and unsustainable lifestyles portrayed on social media.

Goblin mode is the opposite of trying to better yourself.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Goblin at Goblin Valley State Park. Photo by Doug Marrin.

The term embraces the comforts of passing degeneracy. It’s calling in sick and binge-watching Ozark in bed while scrolling endlessly through anything, wiping the wet Doritos residue on your freshly licked fingers onto the duvet, pouring the end of the bag into your mouth with the crumbs spilling out, going to the party store in pajamas for another bag and Red Bull. Beef sticks and hot sauce sound good. Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys.

Merriam-Webster defines a goblin as “an ugly or grotesque sprite that is usually mischievous and sometimes evil and malicious.”

That’s rough. Apologies to any goblins reading this. Their words, not mine.

If you’re ever in the threadbare midriff of Utah, you might find it fun to take a side trip to Goblin Valley State Park for a visit to the strange and colorful (if you like shades of brown) valley. The sandstone formations have eroded into the shape of, well, hundreds of goblins. Unlike other parks where you can’t touch anything cool looking, you and the kids can climb and explore the odd shapes. All these goblins are friendly, and the grandkids had a lot of fun.

And like a visit to the state park, goblin mode is meant to be a passing thing.

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