Time Cites Liberal Reasons for Making ‘Justice’ Word of the Year

December 18th, 2018 6:57 AM

In recent years, dictionary websites have discovered the gimmick of picking anti-Trump themes for their "Word of the Year." When announcing Merriam-Webster’s selection on Monday, Time listed a number of negative events that took place over the past 12 months as why the dictionary company chose “justice” as its pick for 2018.

Time's headline told us "Merriam-Webster's 2018 Word of the Year Is Exactly What America Wants." 

San Francisco Bureau Chief Kate Steinmetz noted the Oxford Dictionaries chose “toxic,” and Dictionary.com picked “misinformation.” “Merriam-Webster’s choice isn’t light-hearted either,” she wrote, “but it highlights a value that embodies the best of the country’s pursuits rather than elements that seem to be corroding its foundations.”

Steinmetz asserted that Merriam-Webster, based in Springfield, Mass., noted that “While every firm tries to anoint a word that sums up the preoccupations of the past year, Merriam-Webster also requires that, according to its own data, the word be one that people were looking up a lot more than usual....there was one word that kept spiking all year long, one whose familiarity belies its complexity, one that can seem both inevitable and unattainable: justice,” a word that “has many definitions.”

The word “had many moments” in 2018, she indicated:

People looked it up when uber-celebrity Kim Kardashian visited the White House, twice, in the name of criminal justice.

Interest swelled as Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused him of sexual assault, gave testimony bearing on whether he would become the next Supreme Court justice.

Steinmetz added: “Readers tried to better understand the word as politicians and protestors made demands for racial justice and economic justice and social justice, on social media and campaign trails and football fields.”

And of course, there must be Russiagate echoes: 

But when [editor at large Peter] Sokolowski says “particular,” he particularly means the Russia investigation and the broader values that it symbolizes. Whether one believes that special counsel Robert Mueller is leading a righteous crusade or a “witch hunt,” the pursuit of justice, and the potential obstruction of that pursuit, are at the eye of the storm. Lookups for the word surged on Aug. 1 when President Trump called on then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to shut down the probe, which has only sprung more penetrating tentacles since then. “That idea of a system, that is fair or not fair,” Sokolowski says, “is what is at play here.”

The reporter added:

But people seemed more often to use it “as a kind of a cry,” as Sokolowski says, demanding that an obscure, flawed system work — that facts be respected at a time when truth is under threat, that fairness be realized even when chaos reigns, that bad guys get their comeuppance and victims get their recognition without delay and out in the open.

Steinmetz stated that selections for “Word of the Year” in 2018 “have not been upbeat.”

The Time reporter concluded with one more use of the word when she quoted theologian Reinhold Niebuhr as saying: “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”