Dictionary.com names ‘complicit’ word of the year – CNET

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At first, he laughed at suggestions that Facebook might be complicit.

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If I asked you to sum up 2017 in just one word, which one would you choose?

No, stop. Curse words aren’t allowed. Not this time.

Well, Dictionary.com on Monday chose “complicit” as its Word of the Year.

In a press release, the online lexicon said the word that suggests involvement in questionable or illegal acts is “indicative of larger trends that resonated throughout the year, hitting every aspect of today’s culture from politics and news, to environmental issues, business, tech, and more.”

Online searches of this word increased by 300 percent over 2016. But that wasn’t the only criterion. 

Dictionary.com’s lexicographer Jane Solomon told me the choice was “based on search data and agreement of in-house experts that include employees of the company, from lexicographers to the marketing and product teams to the CEO, Liz McMillan.”

March 12 appears to have been the day when the word became prominent. In a blog post, the site explained it was Scarlett Johansson offering a satirical perfume ad on “Saturday Night Live” that spurred the first surge in searches. Johansson played Ivanka Trump and the perfume was called “Complicit.”

This was followed in April by Ivanka Trump herself declaring on CBS “This Morning“: “I don’t know what it means to be complicit.”

Dictionary.com surmises that the Mueller investigation of alleged ties between the Trump administration and Russia wasn’t the only reason “complicit” became important.

The site points to “a barrage of natural and man-made disasters, widespread allegations of sexual assault and harassment, and the devastating effects of both mass shootings and the opioid epidemic” as contributing to debates about complicity. 

The tech world wasn’t exactly immune from implicit and explicit suggestions of complicity in dubious, or even nefarious, acts.

Some accused tech leaders of being complicit in supporting the controversial new president, as they met with him and sat on his advisory councils. Many subsequently withdrew.

Facebook, Google and Twitter all had a sudden come-to-Jesus late in the year, as they realized that they might have been complicit in featuring Russian content designed to disrupt the election.

At first, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it was “a pretty crazy idea” that his site’s peddling of fake news might have influenced the elections. Subsequently, he sent 3,000 Russia-linked ads to Congress and vowed to protect “election integrity.”

Still, whether you happen to believe that America is heading in the wrong or right direction, you’re complicit too. You either voted or you didn’t.

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