English and Journalism Students, Faculty Announce 2017 Word of the Year

Augustana students, faculty select the 2017 Word of the Year

Students and faculty from Augustana's English and Journalism Department and the Writing Center have announced #MeToo as their selection for the 2017 Word of the Year (WOTY) .

Grammarians take note: this year's WOTY is not a word, per se, but rather a lexeme — something that functions as a single unit of meaning and embodies a distinct cultural concept.

Dr. Daniel Gerling, assistant professor of English and director of the Augustana Writing Center, said students and faculty selected #MeToo because it "resonated as the beginning of a new and better era regarding gender relations, and we felt it performed an extremely important function in raising awareness to the ubiquity of the problem of sexual assault. Both the tutors and the faculty agreed that #MeToo deserved the honor, but the final faculty vote resulted in a tie between '#MeToo' and 'resist.'" Read the faculty justification

Students called the choice "an unconventional colloquialism."

"#MeToo is not a word plucked from the dictionary or taught on a spelling list ... (it) provided momentum for a protest and firmly cemented itself as a word of the year, in part because of the hashtag. Using a hashtag for the #MeToo movement allowed an online community to see just how commonplace sexual misconduct is. By clicking on any #MeToo post, readers could see millions of other stories and experiences. It allowed a population of people that often feel alone or at fault to speak, and in doing so, it highlighted a widespread societal issue and gave them a community," wrote AU students and Writing Center Tutors Cheyenne Chontos, Hannah Norem, Sophie Geister-Jones and Taylor Olson.

Gerling said WOTY choices are historically significant. 

"These decisions are significant for a number of reasons, most importantly that they will serve as important reminder for both future cultural historians and anyone interested in the intersection of language and culture. But specifically because our choice comes from middle America," Gerling said. 

Augustana's announcement of #MeToo as the 2017 WOTY coincides with national WOTY selections — Merriam-Webster named "Feminism" as its 2017 WOTY while Oxford Dictionaries chose "Youthquake," defined as a "significant cultural, political or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people." #MeToo also prompted Time magazine's selection of "the silence breakers" as 2017 Person of the Year.

2017 is the third year English and journalism students have selected a WOTY. Last year the group made two WOTY selections: lit and woke.