People, Profiles

Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg's word of the year: tribal

By Public Affairs


It’s that time of year again, and Berkeley linguist Geoffrey Nunberg has anointed “tribal” as the word that most defines 2017.

As is traditional, Nunberg revealed his Word of the Year on NPR’s Fresh Air show and its website. He explains:

Geoffrey Nunberg

Geoffrey Nunberg

Collins Dictionary chose “ Fake news ” and went with “ complicit .” Others have proposed #metoo, “alternative facts,” “take a knee,” “resistance” and “snowflake.”

It’s striking how many of those are the words and phrases that warring political camps have been hurling at each other across our deepening national divide. The Trump presidency didn’t create that rift but it sort of made it official.

The word “tribal” isn’t a new word, Nunberg continues. “But in one form or another, it has become the ubiquitous diagnosis for most of our political ills,” he writes.

Read more and listen to Nunberg on the Fresh Air website