Oxford Dictionaries called dibs on “vape” a while back (yet my computer still vehemently wants to autocorrect it to “cape”), so it was obviously a challenge for Merriam-Webster to find their own word of the year within the sea of useless verbiage that encompasses every word in this shit language of ours— with the exception, of course, of the elegant, inimitable “vape.” But finally, today, Merriam-Webster picked their word: it’s “culture.” You might be assuming we culture writers are all rejoicing: but what, really, is a word of the year, especially when said word is so distinctly indistinct? For, similarly, what is “culture?” Though everyone’s answer might be different (some answers might be about yogurt, other might be about Bertolucci), I find this a perfect place, as it is, after all, a links roundup, to regurgitate some “cultural” stories from the day, and hope, that in the puddle of bilious chunks, the word of the year will somehow become more defined.
Over at A.V. Club, a group of writers compiled a list of couples that exist in song — or pop song, to be exact. Naturally, they question whether those couples have any chance of surviving. Reading the piece is both an excellent way to get nostalgic over fictitious loves and bad pop, and to feel a little less isolated about your OKCupid dates amounting to nothing. After all, if Jack and Diane can’t make it, why the hell would you think you and Pugluvr4evr4u would?
Today’s pop has expanded its horizons beyond idealistic love stories, and has made strides in telling truths (some may even complain that there’s too much of a culture — oops, used that word of the year! — of disenchantment in pop these days). But while lyrically, pop music may be shifting, it’s still very much stuck in a world of body policing, where extremely fit people like Nicki Minaj are somehow being celebrated as “thick women.” Check out Buzzfeed’s piece on Viktoria Modesta, a pop singer who’s also an amputee, and who’s trying to shift the pop world’s narrow body-norms.
Onto another cultural phenomenon: Lord of the Rings. There are very few people brave enough to express disdain for the series and face the Sauron-esque wrath of its millions of fans (it’s a testament to its immense popularity that “Sauron” passes my spell-check and “Vape” doesn’t). Viggo Mortensen — who, you’ll recall, was kind of the star of LOTR — is not one of those people. Uproxx has gathered a slew of quotes suggestive of his bold, if not distasteful, distaste for the series.
And perhaps because NASA’s forte is space travel as opposed to silly (but powerful! and in the darkness binding!) gold rings, it’s not doing so well. After their social media department turned Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass” into “All About that Space,” to viral results, The Daily Dot wondered whether social media could possibly be the crucial (despite what some may say) government agency’s saving grace. My suggestion, of course, is that they incessantly tweet #culture, as “culture,” whatever that may be, now seems a mysterious, even magical relevance-maker. On Portlandia, “putting a bird on it” became known as an action that could unquestionably improve a work of art. Slapping “culture” onto any word — as in: campus culture, foodie culture, counterculture — seems to do the same. “Culture,” it seems, is the new vaping bird.