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From Covidiot To Mask Up: 2020 Was So Crazy Oxford Couldn’t Pick Just One Word Of The Year

From Covidiot To Mask Up: 2020 Was So Crazy Oxford Couldn’t Pick Just One Word Of The Year

Remember 2009, when “Unfriend” beat “sexting” and “hashtag” to become the word of the year? Good old days, right? From giving us America’s first African-American President to India’s Chandrayan discovering water on the moon, 2009 was quite the year. More than a decade later, 2020 has been quite a year as well in the most anti-climactic sense of the term.

We honestly lack the strength to even repeat all that has transpired this past year, and it isn’t even over yet. 2020 has been so intense that even Oxford Languages seem to be in a fix. According to them, such has been the “phenomenal breadth of language change” this year that they couldn’t just zero in on a single word as the word of the year. 

“The Oxford Languages 2020 Word of the Year campaign looks a little different from previous years. The English language, like all of us, has had to adapt rapidly and repeatedly this year. Our team of expert lexicographers have captured and analysed this lexical data every step of the way. As our Word of the Year process started and this data was opened up, it quickly became apparent that 2020 is not a year that could neatly be accommodated in one single “word of the year”, so we have decided to report more expansively on the phenomenal breadth of language change,” reads their official website and well, we feel them! 

Oxford Languages has thus released a “2020 Words of an unprecedented year” list that identifies a series of words that transformed the English language this year. The list has been divided into various categories including “The Language of COVID-19”, “Technology and remote working”, and “social movement and social media” and here are all the words that made it to the list: 

Where It All Started: COVID-19 Related Words


Did you know that the word “coronavirus” dates back to the 1960s. However, 2020 is, of course, the year that would be forever associated with it from now on. Other related terms that became extensively popular this year include: “pre-Covid”, “post-Covid”, “pre-coronavirus”, and “post-coronavirus.” Some more of these terms include “BC” (Before coronavirus), “covidiot” (“a blend of Covid and idiot, typically referring to a person who disobeys guidelines designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19”), “coronials” (“a term jocularly proposed for the generation of babies conceived during lockdown, blending coronavirus and millennials”).

All The “-Damics” That Rocked Our World In 2020 (Quite Literally)


It was on March 11th this year that the World Health Organization declared that Covid-19 has indeed become a “pandemic.” Since then the word has taken over our very lives so much so that the frequency of its usage has increased over 57,000% since last year. Other related words that went big this year include “infodemic” (information pandemic), plandemic (planned pandemic) and “twindemic” (“referring (hypothetically) to an outbreak of seasonal flu coinciding with an upsurge in Covid cases”)

Preventive Measures err Words


As “social distancing” became the general mood of the year and being homebound the general rule, there was of course time to learn plenty of new words and that we certainly did. Other terms pertaining to “social distancing” that went big this year include “physical distancing”, lockdown”, “shelter-in-place”, “stay-at-home”, “self-isolate”, and “self-quarantine”.

Then, of course, arrived a phase when the world started “reopening.” Things really looked fine for a while and so did the general vocab that included words like “easing.” However, precautions had to be taken and “sanitising was a must. Related words that went big included, “handwashing”, “hand gel”, “hand sanitizer”, “deep cleaning”, “fogging”, and “hygiene theatre.” 

Mask Up


Those who could not help but go out during the pandemic are well aware that it was only the “face mask” and the idea of “masking up” that helped them with whatever little reassurance they had while risking the virus. Other related words that grew popular include “face mask”, “face covering”, “face shield.” However, we also had to deal with the kind of covidiots who chose to go “maskless” thus popularising worlds like “unmasked,” “anti-mask”,”anti-masker”, and “mask-shaming.”

Epidemiological Terms

Oxford Languages

That the year 2020 was an intense one is no hidden fact. And that it has made “armchair epidemiologists” out of us all cannot be denied as well. All of us have been sniffing medical journals and researches like air all this while. Of course, we know all the terms like “following the science”, “R number”, “flatten the curve” “community transmission” and “superspreader events.”

Of The heroes This Year


2020 was quite a lesson especially in our understanding of the world and who exactly happen to be our true heroes. In 2020, it was “frontline workers” who proved that a hero is exactly that a hero does. Other related terms that went popular include “PPE (and its fuller form personal protective equipment)”, “ventilator”, and “essential workers.”

Of Tech That Came To Our Rescue (But Did It Really?)


Can you believe that it has been almost 10 months of work from home now? 2020 has been the year of working “remotely,” the year that effectively proved that we don’t have to commute for 2 hours every day just to make work happen. And while the world might go back to normal, the pandemic might subside, we wonder if the idea of “remote” working would ever go away now. The popularity of words like “unmute”, “zoombombing”, “zoom-ready”, “zoom-friendly”, “waist up”, “workation” suggests that the culture is here to stay.  

The Environment


It’s easy to say that the year started on a bad note ever before coronavirus was declared a pandemic. We are, of course talking about the Australian “bushfires” and the impact that they had on Australia’s ecosystem. So haunting has been the impact that words continue to stay as a popular one in the English lexicon.

The Black Lives Matter Movement & Everything That Followed


You know that it’s a matter of urgency when protests are held worldwide right in the middle of a pandemic. ‘Please, I can’t breathe,’ begged George Floyd before he finally succumbed to police brutality on May 25, 2020. The man died then and there but his words continued to rock America as they materialised into the “BlackLivesMatter” protests. Other related words that became popular include “allyship”, “wokeness”, “take a knee”, “defund”,  “decolonizing”, “systematic racism”, “BIPOC”, “Juneteenth”, “unrest”, counter-protester”, “Karen”, “QAnon” and “Sheeple.”

End Of The Covfefe Era


As Donald Trump and Joe Biden locked horns for the US Presidential election this year, it was of course an important event that the entire world had its eyes on. Additionally, the former POTUS, Trump, was on quite a roll right before he lost the elections to Biden thus popularising terms like “impeachment”, “acquittal”,  “mail-in”, “vote-by-mail”, “absentee”, “furlough”, “stimulus”, “unemployment”, “layoff”, “eviction” and “moonshot.”

Arghhh…one long list, right? Well, what can we say, it has been one long year! 

Featured Image: Unsplash

24 Nov 2020

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