OED’s word of the year: they couldn’t decide

The year 2020 has done lots of things to us and particularly to the English language. We’re using lots of words, expressions, and definitions that we would not have thought of a year ago.

The folks at the Oxford English Dictionary keep close tabs on these things, and usually about this time of year, they select a word or phrase that captures the essence of the public conversations. And they say proudly:

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. Source: Oxford Word of the Year 2020 | Oxford Languages

This year, however, was different.

They didn’t settle on a single word. Rather, they selected a topic — the pandemic — because it has had such a profound effect on our thing and on our conversation.

We’re using “lockdown,” “shelter-in-place,” “social distancing,” “masking,” and “remote.” And that list will just get you started. You can probably think of a dozen more right off the top of your head.

So then the game is: pick your favorite. The morning that I write this, I am favoring “super-spreader event,” but that could change within the hour.

If you’re really interested in this topic — and it’s a good one — you can download the entire report that the OED experts have put together, and you can register for a webinar they’re having on the topic on Dec. 10, 2020, all at the link listed with the blockquote.

Happy wording.

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Jim Stovall, (JPROF.com) a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self-publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker, and beekeeper -- among other things. Subscribe to his weekly newsletter at http://www.jprof.com .
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