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Wake Up Sheeple

By Cynthia Dominguez, Clarion Staff

As both social and political climates change, the vocabulary of the English language evolves to keep up. The Merriam Webster dictionary surprised many on the morning of April 28, 2017 when they tweeted the news that the word “sheeple” became a new addition to their large array of words. The word was listed as informal and was defined as “people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced; people likened to sheep.” Despite the new status of the word it can be traced as far back as 1945.

The word’s most common use of insulting those easily manipulated by governments and political figures magnified the excitement surrounding the political insult. In light of the recent American political climate, the word sheeple found its way into countless headlines and articles, bringing a passive-aggressive mocking into the vocabulary of political commentators and everyday online users.

Ironically, using the word sheeple as an insult can be considered just as shameful as demonstrating characteristics of sheeple. Not surprisingly, less reserved dictionary websites took a more cynical approach to defining the word. Urban Dictionary defines the word as “a stupid, pathetic way to call somebody stupid and pathetic.”

One specific article was published by an anonymous source titled “Rise of the American Sheeple: 10 Signs You’re a Sheeple,” demonstrates the more criticized use of the word for social commentary. The article criticizes the common habits of consumerism while targeting all members of society. “Our most basic assumptions about life, existence and our own identity are interwoven with the fabric of society so tightly it’s usually impossible to tell where society’s ideas end and ours begin.” The reaching and extreme ideas expressed in the article tend to shroud constructive and reasonable commentary in a regrettable amount of pretentious words and ideas.

The extreme instances allow for general online and offline communities to agree on two things: the far-fetched ideas are pretty amusing to read and there is some truth to the idea of sheeple. Despite the criticism towards the use of the word, many journalists and online users use the approach to plainly call out the problematic behavior found within wordlessly following the set political and social standards. The evolution of the word to a meme-like standard makes the use of the word more acceptable and less initially confrontational, allowing for constructive social commentary. The word is easy to digest in the form of satire, calling for change in human behavior to aid in ridding society of the mindless follower mentality.

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