Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary has declared “milkshake duck” its word of the year, and while the term may have a few people scratching their heads, as the six-member committee who chose it said, “even if you don’t know the word, you know the phenomenon”.
The term was first coined by Australian cartoonist Ben Ward about 18 months ago, first in a tweet:
The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the duck is racist
— pixelated boat (@pixelatedboat) June 12, 2016
And later in a cartoon explaining “The Rise and Fall of Milkshake Duck“.
Put simply, it’s someone plucked from obscurity who the internet loves, before something unsavoury in their past emerges and then the internet turns against them and into a lynch mob.
The Macquarie word of the year committee says it’s “a much needed term to describe something we are seeing more and more of, not just on the internet but now across all types of media”.
“It plays to the simultaneous desire to bring someone down and the hope that they won’t be brought down. In many ways it captures what 2017 has been about. There is a hint of tall poppy syndrome in there, which we always thought was a uniquely Australian trait, but has been amplified through the internet and become universalised,” they said.
Examples include Ken Bone, the US basketball coach wearing glasses and a red sweater who asked about energy policy during the 2016 Presidential debate, and became an overnight hero before come unsavoury comments on Reddit came to light, and in Australia, Duncan Storrar, who asked a question about tax thresholds on ABC TV’s Qanda panel show, got an answer about toasters from assistant treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer, and was hailed as a hero before his criminal history was splashed across the media.
The committee have honourable mentions to “framily” – a combination of friend and family describing “a group of people who are not related by blood but who constitute an intimate network”, and “endling” – the last of a species.
“Framily is an interesting new sociological word, especially as our vocabulary has not always kept up with the changes we are now seeing to the conventional ideas of what constitutes a family. There is an element of kitschness to the coinage but we love it to pieces,” they said.
“Endling is a much needed word that has a real resonance to it. And the association this word has with the word ‘foundling’ lends a real sense of vulnerability to the meaning.”
Among the other finalists were big sugar, bike sharing, daigou (a person who buys goods, such as formula milk for babies, in other countries to sent to customers in mainland China) – a phenomenon Business Insider reported on back in June 2016, dopamine dressing and dark state (people within a state’s bureaucracy, intelligence agencies and security forces who align to form a secret force which aims to control and subvert democratic processes and institutions) and text neck the pain from looking down at a phone while text messaging for long periods.
Voting is now open on the people’s choice award for word of the year. You can vote online.
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