Each year the ANDC selects a Word of the Year. The words chosen for the shortlist are not necessarily new, or exclusively Australian, but are selected on the basis of having come to some prominence in the Australian social and cultural landscape during the year. This year we have selected the term sharing economy as our Word of the Year 2015.
sharing economy ‘an economic system based on sharing of access to goods, resources, and services, typically by means of the Internet’. This term grew in significance and frequency of use in Australia in 2015. This was partly due to the impact of debates around the introduction of ridesharing service Uber into Australia, which has been seen as a threat to the taxi industry. The sharing economy is facilitated by online technology, and while it is most often associated with ridesharing and accommodation sharing apps, it can also include collaborative efforts such as crowdfunding. The term has ‘feel-good’ connotations in emphasising sharing, and some regard it as a positive good for society. However, others have pointed to its corporate dimensions, and its potential to displace industries and businesses.
dark web ‘the part of the World Wide Web that is intentionally hidden from search engines, uses masked IP addresses, and is accessible only with a special web browser, thus allowing website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable’. Dark web refers specifically to websites that use encryption tools to hide the identities of hosts and users of a site, and attests to the more dangerous capacities of the web to facilitate criminal activity.
lawfare ’the use of the legal system to effect a political or social outcome’. The term rose to prominence in Australia in 2015 after Attorney-General George Brandis accused environmental groups of using lawfare to try and stop particular development projects going ahead. The term is generally considered to be a negative one, as it implies an abuse of the justice system.
marriage equality ’the situation in which same-sex couples have the same legal right to marry as opposite-sex couples’. Marriage equality was much debated in Australia through 2015, as there were significant campaigns to try and introduce marriage equality legislation. Its prominence in Australia was part of a wider campaign, as seen in the successful Irish referendum in May on the issue, and a historic US Supreme Court ruling in June.
periscope ’a live streaming app that allows a mobile phone to be used to record and broadcast video in real time’. The term is starting to be used as a verb: for example, ‘I’m going to periscope my family this Christmas’. A number of official events have been periscoped: for example, the Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Andrew Barr allowed a cabinet meeting to be periscoped in August 2015 as a way of encouraging public engagement with government.
The 2015 Word of the Year and shortlist are selected by the editorial staff of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at the Australian National University, and based on research as well as public suggestions. The ANDC undertakes research into Australian English and edits Australian dictionaries for Oxford University Press.