Why “woke” means different things to different people


When two of the most important dictionaries of the English language added the word “woke” in 2017, their definitions were similar and unambiguous.

Here is how the Oxford English Dictionary puts it: “woke, adjective: Originally: well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice; frequently in stay woke.”

And here is America’s Merriam-Webster on “woke”: “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”

But even before their recognition as part of the mainstream English lexicon, the terms “woke,” “wokeism” or “wokeness” were turning into weapons in America’s perennial culture wars — as well as a cultural export which has failed, so far, to gain the universal acceptance of previous items on the export list.

That list is long and covers a wide…

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