We all know Merriam-Webster rivals Hannah Horvath in being the voice of our generation. The dictionary is also very involved in the Twitterverse, particularly when it comes to politics, subtly throwin’ shade like it ain’t no thang.
So, it makes sense for this to be the latest Merriam-Webster addition: “Sheeple.”
“Sheeple,” a portmanteau of “sheep” and “people,” is defined as “people who are docile, compliant or easily influenced.”
Because, you know, sheep are really chill and can be pretty much herded wherever. It’s similar in sentiment to the word “lemming.”
Merriam-Webster uses the word in a sentence that hits deeply close to home: “Apple’s debuted a battery case for the juice-sucking iPhone — an ungainly lumpy case the sheeple will happily shell out $99 for.”
But, despite that iPhone realness, the most-known example of the word is likely “Wake up, sheeple!”
The phrase “wake up, sheeple!” has been around for years, but appears to have become a well-circulated meme after appearing in an “xkcd” web comic from 2012. The comic, according to Know Your Meme, is about “a civilization of sheep-people hybrids who are awakened from their underground slumber after a man yells, ‘Wake up, Sheeple!’”
That’s obviously incredibly literal, but “sheeple” has also been used as a politically-charged word ― apparently since the 1940s.
W. R. Anderson, in his column “Round About Radio,” published this line in 1945: “The simple truth is that you can get away with anything, in government. That covers almost all the evils of the time. Once in, nobody, apparently, can turn you out. The People, as ever (I spell it ‘Sheeple’), will stand anything.”
More recently, in 2004, an Urban Dictionary entry gave a usage example stating that sheeple supported the war on terrorism:
Hmm... By adding “sheeple” to the dictionary now, in 2017, could Merriam-Webster be making another kind of statement?