“That’s so toxic,” I say after my friend tells me about her chaotic workplace environment. (Texts after 11 p.m.? Emergency weekend meetings? Gatekeeping, gossip and girl bossing? Toxic.) Or did I say it in response to my husband explaining the latest season of Love Is Blind? (I can’t watch—the second-hand embarrassment is too toxic). Or maybe it was as I pounded my fists towards the heavens when my iPhone inexplicably launched into that free U2 album from 2014. (That was so toxic of Tim Cook.)
Whether it’s brain-eating amoebas or old classmates getting in touch over Facebook to “get fit,” file it under: toxic. The air I breathe, the relationships that don’t work, the disgrace of being in Boarding Group 9—the common denominator? It’s all toxic waste that I, a faultless ingénue up to her knees in radioactive muck, must wade through.
Toxic was the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2018, essentially the equivalent of the Miss America, but for words. Per the publication: “The Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance.” An adjective, it’s defined by Merriam Webster as 1. “containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation,” 2. “exhibiting symptoms of infection or toxicosis,”; 3. “extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful,” or 4. “relating to or being an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market.”
Then, it was the word we needed to explain where we found ourselves. But now, the word is having its Anne Hathaway moment, overexposed, by no fault of its own beyond being great at what it does. Naiylah Warren, LMFT, Therapist and Clinical Content Manager at Real agrees that the word is overused. So how the hell am I supposed to explain the slow and preventable rot of everything on this mortal coil without using my favorite word?