This year’s Word of the Year, according to the Oxford Dictionaries, is “toxic.”
It’s a standout choice, Oxford says, because of the sheer scope of its application. The number of people that looked up “toxic” was 45 percent more than the number that did so the previous year.
The literal meaning is “poisonous,” of course, and the word has been traditionally used to describe harmful substances that damage the body.
But the actual usage has been growing.
Here at home, “toxic” has been used colloquially for many years—and never in a literal sense. It could refer to anything from a punishing schedule to a relationship that has gone abusive, sour or joyless. It could describe an environment so steeped in negativity that nothing positive thrives, or a disposition that focuses, constantly, on bad things rather than good.
We are not strangers to toxicity in a wider sphere, as well.
The nation faces so many problems on many fronts: Soaring prices, messy public transportation, big wealth gaps, illegal drugs, persistent corruption and unending impunity, among others. These are enough to challenge even the brightest of optimists.
These very real woes are compounded by a culture of dishonesty, hatred, and intolerance. Those who do not agree with the prevailing mood are automatically branded as enemies of the people and sympathizers of the Yellow movement. Life and death are taken lightly, and words are used indiscriminately, and destructively.
It’s hardly an ideal sentiment to have with just a few days before Christmas. Then again, people can choose to adopt their own disposition independent of what they see in their leaders and on the news. A conscious attempt against toxicity may just be the best present we can ever give ourselves and the people around us, this season.