THE Oxford Word of the Year 2022 is ‘Goblin mode’. In slang, it means behaviour which is ‘unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly or greedy that rejects social norms or expectations.’
The Covid years of confinement obviously propelled the word’s popularity, when the world over marathon webinars were attended in track suits and hoodies.
But in India one doesn’t have to go far to see our own desi version of the goblin mode. Our kurta-pyjama is a multi-mode attire which one can wear to a big, fat Punjabi wedding, the Republic Day parade or even while receiving the Padma Shri, accompanied by ethnic Kolhapuri sandals and a jacket with a savvy pocket square in place. At the same time, it doubles up in its crumpled state as the most comfy dress to loll around in bed or have a TV dinner.
It is the younger generation that has taken to the goblin mode really. During the Covid years, when many metropolitan corporate kids had to head for their parental nests, one rarely saw them beyond wearing shorts and sweatshirts during the summer and track suits during winter hibernation.
The other day, Rahul Gandhi was spotted paying obeisance at Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s samadhi in Delhi’s bone-chilling weather — barefoot and wearing a T-shirt. He not only raised political temperatures in the country, but with his Socratic beard also confused political pundits on the ‘hidden agenda’ beneath the look.
While Oxford put its money on the Goblin mode, Merriam-Webster declared gaslighting as its word of the year. ‘In this age of misinformation — of “fake news”, conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes — gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time.... It is the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage,’ explain the editors.
Gaslighting might be new for the West, but we have had it for ages. Our netas promise us world-class railway stations, bullet trains, India emerging as the world’s largest economy by 2047 and other visions of paradise. Once the elections are over, those who made lofty promises of free ration, bijlee, paani, sadak, laptops or TV sets do the Houdini act and simply vanish.
It’s not only politicians who are notorious at selling us snake oil, but also the organisers of festival sales — Diwali dhamaka, Dhanteras bonanza, etc. — who woo us with offers of cashbacks and interest-free loans. Try one of these deals and you will keep waiting for your cashback that should have been in the pocket long back.
Forget Goblin mode or gaslighting — my word of the year in the desi context is gupshup. You can indulge in it in the Goblin mode while doing all the gaslighting.
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