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Words that spoke volumes about 2020

An “unprecedented” year

The coronavirus and US elections divided America in 2020. Picture: Jose M./Unsplash

By Garth Johnstone

In a truly turbulent – even historic – year, there’s been no shortage of newsmakers, and along with the news came terms, previously little known, which are now firmly part of our daily lexicon.

We definitely didn’t see 2020 coming.

As we were rocked by coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter protests, gender-based violence, the bitterly contested US elections, deaths of numerous celebs, RET and the Zondo Commission, Senekal and Brackenfell, some words rose to the fore and refused to be ignored, firing up search engines and dominating global newsfeeds. And the year had all started so well… 20-plenty and all that!

Words associated with coronavirus dominated news reports, newsfeeds and social media posts.

2020 is the year when scientists and doctors came to the fore. Some of the words and terms I’ve noted are, first and obviously, coronavirus; lockdown; isolation; social distancing, flattening the curve and more associated with coronavirus. QAnon and boogaloo associated with US politics and the election; anthropause (environment)… there are many more that have come from left field to claim their place in the English language. How about “coronacoaster”?

Oxford Languages recently published its “Words of an Unprecedented Year” report, in which it shares “the evidence-based data we have at our fingertips to track and analyse the unfolding story”.

What is boogaloo?

It’s a clever and revealing look at how our daily consciousness has been invaded by these words, as global events unfolded in the most unexpected ways.

On its website it said, “We cast our net wide to capture how English around the world expressed its own view, sometimes sharing the collective expressions for the phenomena endured globally this year, and at other times using regionally specific words and usages.”

An anthropause? There were many reports of wild animals returning to walk the streets of cities and towns around the world. Picture: Smithsonian Magazine

Some of the words the report highlighted included (associated with Covid-19) shelter-in-place; pandemic (whose usage increased by more than 57 000% this year); “workation”; “staycation”; (Black Lives Matter) BLM.

Climate change

The report noted that media coverage of climate change had, generally, dipped, ”However, precisely because of Covid-19, we have seen the introduction of a new word – ‘anthropause’, referring to the global slowdown of travel and other human activity and the subsequent welcome consequences, such as a decrease in light and noise pollution”.

Click here for more on the Oxford Languages “Words of an Unprecedented Year” report.

Source – TimesLIVE Books section

Book review: David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet


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