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Understanding 2017’s Word of the Year

Trenton Carroll, Reporter

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The word of the year is not chosen by search amount or popularity, but instead by describing a common theme among topical events that happen between January and December. This year, Dictionary.com chose the word “complicit.” According to Dictionary.com, complicit is defined as “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing.” One can be complicit either by being directly involved with something bad, or by taking a stance of noninvolvement. So what makes complicit the word of the year in 2017? Perhaps a better question would be why a word like unvirtuous or scandal wasn’t chosen?

The word complicit can most prominently be applied to politics this year. In 2017 Americans saw the President of the United states deny climate change, refuse to condemn the xenophobes who supported the acts committed in Charlottesville, and call for the firing of football players like Colin Kaepernick who peacefully protested against police brutality. The definition of complicit reached one of its peak search inquiries on Dictionary.com after Arizona senator, Jeff Flake, gave a resignation speech where he stated that he would no longer be complicit with Trump’s policies, and reminded his fellow Republican politicians that “silence can equal complicity.”

Dictionary.com’s top search peak for complicit was after a Saturday Night Live sketch aptly titled “Complicit.” In the sketch, Ivanka Trump (portrayed by Scarlett Johansson) is endorsing a new perfume named ‘complicit.’ The smooth toned narrator of the sketch whispers “complicit, the fragrance for the woman that could stop all this, but won’t.” The sketch was probably SNL’s commentary of Ivanka’s acknowledgement of climate change, and how she has yet to scorn her father, Donald Trump, for having the United States leave the Paris Agreement.

2017 also saw a dramatic rise in high-profile sexual assault cases. Harvey Weinstein was accused by many women of sexual misconduct at the beginning of October this year. The scandal resulted in several other women and men bringing up their own stories of entanglement with predatory celebrities and politicians. While there are sure to be many more cases brought up this year, some of the high profile men to be accused thus far are music entrepreneur, Russell Simmons, actor Kevin Spacey, Kentucky house speaker Jeff Hoover, and comedian Louis C.K. This small list of men represents a fraction of similar cases accumulated this year. Multiple others have been called out for knowingly ignoring such conduct including Ben Affleck, who previously kept his lips sealed about what had been going on with Weinstein for decades.

So what can all individuals of Orcutt Academy, whether faculty member or student, take away from 2017’s word of the year? Taking in the terrible acts of this year and reflecting on them is something that is important for everyone to do. If you see someone being harmed, whether physically or emotionally, don’t be complicit and allow the abuse to keep happening. Speak to someone you trust who can help resolve the situation. Remember that being complicit is being silent, and any form of harassment is an important matter. Bringing light to such abuse will only improve everyone’s quality of life.

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