Congratulations are in order to the word ‘existential’. It has been named Dictionary.com’s word of the year. It topped words such as peripatetic (which is just nice to say), ultracrepidarian (which reflects a large part of politics this year), tarantism (which we all need more of in our lives), and Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (which I threw in because I love its irony). But alas, existential is deemed superior to all other 169,999 words in current use in the English language.
I, as you might have guessed, do not like the word existential. Are you wondering why I have taken offence to its new title? Well, let me just ask you this: Hark back to a time you heard this lexical waste of space add something to a sentence?
Are you struggling? Because I know I am.
The dictionary definition of existential is: ‘of or relating to existence’. However, this describes a word that can be used in almost any scenario: "I'm just nipping out to buy some milk relating to my existence"; "I clogged the shower up with the hair of my existence"; "Sorry I'm late but my existential bus was existentially delayed by the existential existence of road works." With one addition of an adjective, a comment can be elevated from ordinary to pretentious jargon.
Existential is a preferred word choice of many politicians (that has to tell you something). Dictionary.com quoted former Vice President Joe Biden using this alphabetical tragedy at an Iowa Rally. Biden labelled Donald Trump as “literally an existential threat to America”. Whilst I don't disagree with this statement; Biden hardly had to specify what sort of a threat he deems Trump to be. I doubt the spectators at the Iowa rally were going to return home questioning whether Trump is a threat to their nonexistence or existence. It is a word that hopes to convey intellect rather than meaning.
‘Existential’ fills the gap of a more appropriate lexeme. Its use is meaningless and devoid of understanding and it communicates little above a desire to be heard. Politicians use it to impress upon us their vocabulary range, yet I find it does nothing other than symbolises the lack of substance behind their words. It represents the shoddiest part of politics; one that isolates the running of our country to only those who can stomach faux-intellectual garbage...
In that respect maybe it is the perfect choice for 2019’s word of the year?