Happy Thanksgiving, may the turkey baha bon, and be leisurely digested.

Language is one of my favorite subjects and my friends know I always feel sorry for Papiamento, that has no curator, no Language-Czar to stir it in profound ways, balancing the street influence on the style of expression, with linguistic logic.

English has OED, the Oxford English Dictionary.

That authority rules supreme, and maintains an overview on the ever adapting vocabulary.

Yesterday, OED published its finding for 2020 and media across the world reported: Oxford English Dictionary couldn’t pick just one ‘Word of the Year,’ for 2020.

The language evolved and adapted so fast, they had to pick more than a dozen expressions. It was an unprecedented year, which is by the way one of the words OED flagged as unprecedented.   

Traditionally, Oxford Languages, the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary, chooses what it considers the “word of the year,” a selection meant to “reflect the ethos, mood or preoccupations” of the past 12 months.

In 2019, it was “climate emergency.”

In 2018, it was “toxic.”

In 2020:

Covid – A completely new word, first recorded on February 11th, 2020.

Bushfire – Inspired by the Australian fires in January

Acquittal – Made popular by President Trump’s impeachment trial that ended in February.

Lockdown, Social distancing, reopening, all Pandemic related terms that popped up in March, April, and May.

Black Lives Matter became the expression-of-the-hour in June

Cancel Culture, a form of criticism that withdraws support and ‘cancels a person, was widely discussed in the fall.

BIPOC – Black, Indigenous and Other People of Color, an acronym coined in 1796, made a comeback in September

Mail-in, since October, a word referring to the ballots that helped slide candidate Biden into the white house, in November.

Other words that made an appearance on the street and are now part of the dictionary: Moonshot – meaning ambitious or ground-breaking, net zero – referring to carbon neutral goals, and superspreader – referring perhaps to travel on Thanksgiving, and any agglomeration of individuals that is likely to help spread the virus.  

There are hundreds of words added to the dictionary each year, if you are interested in the list from Sept 2020, you will be surprised and entertained.


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November 26, 2020
Rona Coster