‘Surreal’ is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year. Sounds about right | Dave Bry

Many people globally have felt the grounds of reality shift beneath them in 2016, and its only getting curiouser

Merriam-Webster Dictionary announced Mondaythat its official word of the year for 2016 is surreal, which the dictionary defines as marked by the intensity of a dream.

Seems about right. This year has felt like a bad dream from the start. Just from the music perspective, David Bowie died on 10 January, just after releasing a harrowing, beautiful album very specifically about his own death. Hed had cancer and kept it secret. In April, Prince died, overdosing on the pharmaceutical opiate Fentanyl at the way-too-tender age of 57, just a month after announcing that he had signed a contract to publish his memoir in 2017. In November, Leonard Cohen would complete the trio, dying in his sleep a month after releasing his 15th album, You Want It Darker.

Sad and bewildered, and after a string of terrorist attacks, Englands devastating decision to Brexit the European Union, more unarmed black people shot to death by police here in the states, and the divisive, race-baiting, presidential campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump, music lovers and pretty much any other people around the world would be forgiven for saying: It was plenty dark enough already, Leonard, thanks.

Photograph: Edel Rodriguez/Time Magazine
As its used in our contemporary lexicon today, the word surreal probably most often conjures images of surrealist art. Inspired by the dream analysis and free associative techniques of Sigmund Freud, early 20th century European painters such as Max Ernst, Andre Masson and Joan Mir took the physics-denying, time-and-space-twisting images that reside in our subconscious and developed a visual language to bring them to life on canvas. It was shocking art, and not always pretty.

Probably the most famous image of surrealism in the world, the melting clocks in Salvador Dals 1931 masterpiece The Persistence of Memory, showed up this year, in a sense, in the form of a pair of stunning but ultimately ill-advised Time magazine cover. In August, to depict Trumps seemingly self-sabotaging campaign, Timeran an Edel Rodriguez illustration of Trumps face mouth agape melting like an ice-cream cone on a hot summer day.

Meltdown was the one-word cover line. Two months later, with Trump still trailing in the polls, just a month before election day, Time brought it back this time an even more melted Trump, an orange-and-yellow puddle, and one added word: Total Meltdown.

Photograph: Edel Rodriguez/Time Magazine

The problem of course, is that Time magazine, and just about every other media outlet in the country, had it wrong. Trump was not melting down. In hindsight, it seems pretty clear that he was gaining momentum.

Three weeks after the second Time meltdown cover, one day after Leonard Cohen died, Donald Trump pulled off one of the greatest upsets in American political history. Thats when 2016 went from being a bad dream to full-on waking nightmare, one thats just gotten worse and worse, and more and more surreal.

The proliferation of fake news propaganda around the internet was worse than many of us had thought too. The Russian government meddled in the election in support of Trump, it turned out something out of a James Bond movie. Trump denies this, putting himself at odds with the intelligence departments of the very government hes about to inherit command of. Its an unprecedented mess, and a dangerous one, a truly scary one.

The electoral college representatives vote Monday to ratify Trump as the next president of the United States. Thirty-seven Republican voters have to go renegade switching their assigned votes away from Trump or hell be the one sworn into office at the inauguration on 20 January 2017. Its not likely that many electors will do so, but Im hoping against hope for one more great big burst of surreality before we bid 2016 adieu.

After all, the word of the year is surreal, not apocalyptic.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/19/surreal-word-of-the-year-merriam-webster

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