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This roller coaster of a year deserves its own dictionary4 min read

December 1, 2020 3 min read


This roller coaster of a year deserves its own dictionary4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Image: GIPHY

Did you know that the Oxford Dictionary puts out an official “Word of the Year” each year? From ‘selfie’ to ‘climate emergency,’ these words are supposed to reflect the essence of each year. But this year, this choice comes with a story.

Who decides the word of the year, and how?

A graph depicting the use of ‘post-truth,’ which was 2016s Word of the Year. Image: Oxford Languages

A group of dictionary-writing experts, called lexicographers, study the words that are used most every year. Then, these experts decide which single word best reflects the global trend of the year. They look at things such as online searches and news trends to make their decision.

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: 2015 was the only year to have an emoji as the word of the year.

<<Image: Oxford Languages

2020 strikes again

This year, however, has been extraordinary, and in true 2020 fashion, they decided to do something they have never done before. Rather than name a single word of the year, the experts highlighted 47 terms that have impacted the English Speaking population! Yup, ‘unprecedented‘ or something that has never happened before is just one of the words that made it to the list.
<< Image: Oxford Languages

Words across the globe

This year’s words of the year were divided regionally. While some words like ‘pandemic’ globally exploded, others like ‘e-pass’ were only popular in the regions where they were used. “E-pass” was popular in India, while Veronica Bucket, a mechanism for hand-washing that originated in Ghana, is commonly used there.

<< Image: British Council

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: All OED’s words of the year don’t make it to the official English Oxford dictionary. 2017’s ‘youthquake’ was a Word of the Year that isn’t in the dictionary.

Words for each season

A map that shows the increased use of various words around the world in 2020. Image: Oxford Languages

The experts even segmented the list over time. When the year began, the most popular word was ‘impeachment’ as the President of the United States of America ran the risk of being removed or impeached from his position. When Covid started in March, the word ‘wet-market’: the place where Covid19 was rumored to have originated, became wildly popular. But, soon enough, ‘Pandemic’ took over, and then came heaps and heaps of pandemic related terms that we can only hope will magically disappear in 2021. But it’s all not zombie-virus-bad news. The end of the year saw words such as ‘net-zero’ trending as heavily polluting countries such as China promised to go carbon neutral.

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: In 2017, the Word of the Year was ‘youthquake,’ and it marked the beginning of young people standing up for the climate and global equality. As governments make words such as net-zero popular, we see evidence that the youthquake really did shake them up!
>>Image: Oxford Languages

Let’s hope 2021s Word of the Year is infected with hope and not a deadly virus! Until then, try this quiz to test your knowledge on just a few of this year’s Words of the Year.

With Excerpts From: Oxford Languages Words of an Unprecedented Year report, Oxford Languages, Owliver’s Post