December 4, 2022

"After opening the choice of Word of the Year up to English speakers for the first time in its history, over the last two weeks more than 300,000 people cast their vote.... And the winner is... Goblin mode."

"‘Goblin mode’ – a slang term, often used in the expressions ‘in goblin mode’ or ‘to go goblin mode’ – is ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.’ Although first seen on Twitter in 2009, goblin mode went viral on social media in February 2022, quickly making its way into newspapers and magazines after being tweeted in a mocked-up headline. The term then rose in popularity over the months following as Covid lockdown restrictions eased in many countries and people ventured out of their homes more regularly. Seemingly, it captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to ‘normal life’, or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media...."

So says Oxford Languages (the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary).

Sample quote from The Guardian: “Goblin mode is like when you wake up at 2am and shuffle into the kitchen wearing nothing but a long t-shirt to make a weird snack, like melted cheese on saltines.” 

Here's an Axios article from last April: "Musk's 'goblin mode' is here to stay":

At the end of his week-long Twitter adventure — buying 9% of the company's stock, taking a seat on its board and then abandoning it — Elon Musk posted a meme reading: "In all fairness, your honor, my client was in goblin mode." Then he deleted it.
Goblin mode apparently means "I no longer care about what anyone thinks about how I look or what I say."
Don't mind me, Musk seemed to be saying. I've just been putting you on....

Ha ha. That was back in April, remember.

Musk may just be one crazy-rich guy who loves to play the trickster-troll, but the manic style of corporate disruption he is pioneering is likely to be with the tech industry for a long time....
[Musk's] idea of activist investing involves roasting the company's management in public (ideally, on their own social media platform) while frequently changing his own course.This method's strength is that it attracts attention, it hooks people on an unpredictable narrative, and it makes Musk himself look (to fans, at least) like a renegade rule-breaker.

I don't know what that has in common with  melted cheese on saltines and an oversized T-shirt. Maybe the term is evolving differently in the United States.

The bottom line: No one knows what Musk will do next, probably not even Musk himself. He could still try for a hostile takeover of Twitter, or he could walk away....

He could shuffle into the kitchen at 2 a.m. and melt cheese on saltines. Who knows?! 

ADDED: The NYT article about the Word of the Year does not mention Musk (even though there are only 2 other articles in the NYT archive using "goblin mode" and they are both about Musk). But there are a few interesting things.

First, about the vote, which pitched the little-known "goblin mode" against “#IStandWith” and “metaverse”:

In a passionate appeal, the website PC Gamer urged people to “put aside our petty differences and vote for ‘goblin mode,’” if only to thwart the milquetoast-y “#IStandWith” and the downright evil “metaverse.”

“Go vote for taking care of yourself and having joy in rejection of society’s stifling norms,” the website urged. Because “the metaverse that CEOs want to sell you is awful.”

The internet obeyed, delivering a whopping 93 percent of the more than 340,000 votes cast to “goblin mode.” “Metaverse” was the runner-up, with 4 percent.

Second, about how "goblin mode" caught on this year:

[I]t went viral last spring, thanks to a satirical tweet featuring a fake news headline that quoted the actress Julia Fox saying that she and Kanye West broke up because he didn’t like it when she “went goblin mode.” (Fox later posted a denial on Instagram Stories, saying: “Just for the record, I have never used the phrase ‘goblin mode.’”)

Third, about other dictionaries' Word of the Year (not chosen by a vote):

This year, Merriam-Webster chose “gaslighting” (based on a 1,740 percent surge in look-ups on its website). Cambridge Dictionaries went with “homer,” which was among the many five-letter words that surged this year thanks to Wordle. (On May 5, when “homer” was the winning word, look-ups — many presumably by non-Americans — spiked to 65,000.)

Homer?! That's crazy. Maybe it got looked up by people who don't know baseball and think it's just a proper name and therefore mistakenly used by Wordle.

Fourth, the idea that "metaverse" was a good word before it became a Facebook brand:

[T]he prefix “meta” has already gone from being a highbrow philosophical word to something corporate and, for many, suspect. “Is the concept of people sitting around in goggles going to pollute the concept of ironic self-referentiality?” [asked Katherine Connor Martin, product director at Oxford Languages].

She cited the usage expert Bryan Garner’s concept of “skunked words” — words that have become unusable, because of disputed meanings or problematic associations. “We wondered if that would happen to the verb ‘trump,’” she said. “But it didn’t.”


RideSpaceMountain said...

I was really hoping that "bat aids" would sail into first place. I guess people disliked it because said too quickly or out of context it sounds like "bad aids"...which will definitely get people's attention.

n.n said...


Lurker21 said...

So nothing to actually do with Goblins?

Goblin mode is a slang term for a way of behaving that intentionally and shamelessly gives in to and indulges in base habits and activities without regard for adhering to social norms or expectations.

To me, that is just life. It's the rest of you that I need a word to describe.

Ampersand said...

Goblin mode is a term so new that its meaning is still in flux. From the times I've heard or read it, I had the impression that it referred to someone acting like the Norse trickster god Loki. Playful, malicious, and indifferent to the ultimate outcome.

Lash LaRue said...

I must be old school. I thought goblin mode was two words.

Clyde said...

To paraphrase, "The Age of Man is over. The Time of the Goblin has come!"

MikeR said...

Word of the year that I never heard.

Readering said...

Too much bridge, not enough virtual reality gaming.

tim maguire said...

This is the first time I've ever heard of Goblin Mode. Goblin Mode should mean mischievous, not slovenly.

I'm disappointed the word of the year wasn't Boaty McBoatface. The Brits are losing their touch.

Achilles said...

Never herd this phrase before.

I also want to know how two words can be the word of the year.

Ficta said...

I first saw it in the infrequently updated, but, well, I find it enjoyable, Twitter account: animals going goblin mode

tommyesq said...

I was worried for a minute there that they wouldn't find a way to squeeze Trump into the article. Then i got to the end and felt much better.

Narr said...

I'll bet a lot of those votes were gobots.

I didn't see the ADDED material until coming back here after a first read and no comments.

Had not heard the term myself, and won't find it useful, I'm sure.

Howard said...

Fuck that. Go Beast Mode or go Home to Momma's service porch.

chickelit said...

From the wiki: "The element cobalt's name comes from the German word kobold, meaning goblin or evil spirit. It was named by miners in 16th century Saxony who thought they had found deposits of silver but had actually found cobalt arsenide."

Paddy O said...

Is this more of a Britishism? I've heard the phrase but not as defined and not at all as much as word of the year would suggest

Wilbur said...

"Homer" refers not only to a baseball home run, but to a sports referee or official whose calls favor the home team due to bias or fear of the home crowd. Decades old.

Kate said...

I've never heard this term. (Not a word.)

"Gaslighting" is wonderful, though. Its origin is interesting and its usefulness is unbounded.

And I find that, for me, the verb "trump" is skunked. Not that I'd ever heard the adjective, but I like it and will now use it.

Lurker21 said...

"After opening the choice of Word of the Year up to English speakers for the first time in its history, over the last two weeks more than 300,000 people cast their vote.... "

Presumably the Romanians, Ruthenians, Rwandans and Tongans who had been deciding up until now made better choices.

Biff said...

For an example of "goblin mode" in US culture, see also comedian Iliza Shlesinger's "Party Goblin" routine.

Strange. I've found her Netflix specials to be some of the sharpest and funniest I've seen, but when individual bits like this one are excerpted, they leave me feeling mostly sad about modern drinking/dating culture.

loudogblog said...

I have never heard the phrase, "goblin mode." (It sounds like a video game thing.) It probably got the nod because it has been used as an insult against people that they don't like.