I stumbled upon an interesting article about the “Word of the Year: for 2021 and I wasn’t surprised what it was: vaccine.
“Vaccine” was on the lips of millions, and eventually into the arms of millions too, including me and my family in Toronto, Canada. It was on the lips of people like us, getting all our shots, and also the anti-vaxxers and vaccine skeptics.Related words come to mind: mandate, public health and covid.
Speaking of that last one, the spelling “covid” probably doesn’t freak you out, but did you know many style guides insist it should be “COVID” in keeping with general naming conventions for respiratory diseases in this category (similarly to SARS, which hit us in 2003)? I, however, have been using the same style as the venerable New York Times, which spells it “covid.” So when I use lower-case I feel I’m in good company.
Each year Merriam-Webster, the dictionary company, publishes their list.
No doubt these words skew, or lean, a bit toward American English and news media trends.
Rounding out the list was the following:
I don’t have the space and time to go over all these words, so cycle back to the link at the beginning of this article if you want to deep dive. But I will discus a couple quickly before getting back to Word of the Year.
What’s up with “Woke” and What Went Wrong?
Woke is a word, like others, that has multiple meanings. The Beatles sang “Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head,” and even basic speakers of English can guess woke ir related to similar words like awake or awakening, or the past participles woken or awoken (sounds potentially conusing though now doesn’t it?).
What’s interesting to me is how some words get hijacked from the original meaning and use. Take, for example, “woke” which used to be a world used in social justice circles to signify being an activist, being conscious and considering issues important to the “left” (politically left of centre). But if you’ve been keeping up with the latest goings on, particularly those south of the border, it has become apparent that the “right” has co-opted, or borrowed this expression in serve of denigrating or putting down the left, those who popularized it! Language is an amazing thing – so versatile. That probably frustrates those on the left though doesn’t it!?
What’s up with Murraya and What Went Right?
What an unusual word, murraya. Very unusual indeed. Would you ever have guessed the spelling? I might have guessed it was spelled “Mariah” – like the singer Mariah Carrey.
The story, as explained by Merriam-Webster is inspirational:
Murraya spiked in lookups on July 8th, after Zaila Avant-garde spelled it correctly to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
We define Murraya as “a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees (family Rutaceae) having pinnate leaves and flowers with imbricated petals.”
Congrats Zaila Avant-garde and what a name you have my friend. Continued success!
2020 Word of the Year: Pandemic
As befitting a period of time that feels like Bill Murray’s movie Groundhog Day, the word of the year for the previous year was “pandemic.” No surprise there either. And the transition from pandemic to vaccine arrived so very fast in comparison to previous periods of plague and remedies.
Predicting Word of the Year 2022?
Any thoughts on a word of the yer for this year? I’m not sure where we’re at. Vaccines are working, signs are that life has somewhat returned to normal, despite this winter’s Omicron surge, and people are both frustrated and optimistic. Somewhere in the ranks of words important to dicussion of society, health and economy is the word that sums up this year.
Since I titled this section hinting at predictions, I’ll give it a try:
Is the “endemic” the end of the pandemic? It conveniently has the word “end” at the prefix position. Actually it does mean a vast improvement. It implies the virus becomes normalized, like a regularly occurring sickness in the larger community, but one that doesn’t wreak so much havoc and harm.
Pfizer’s Global President, Dr. Nanette Cocero told investors recently that COVID-19 could become an endemic by 2024, as reported by CNBC. That’s a long way off, but still good news.
This means we are trending toward a position where the “pan” aspect is no longer relevant. The word-combining, prefix-like “pan” originates in the Greek language, and refers to all, as in “all countries” or “all people” or simply a large swatch of the world, such as found in the continental spanning expression “pan-African.”
Though we hope the disease is eradicated worldwide, realistically the illness and virus may flare up regionally, and some nations may periodically struggle.
Right now, if you weren’t aware, HIV, which still afflicts millions in Africa and elsewhere, is considered to have transitioned from a devastating epidemic to a manageable chronic disease. Treatment and drugs are much more affordable and widespread.
Will covid eventually be regarded as a sickness in the same fashion or severity as flu? Experts say it could be moving that direction. Let’s hope the word of the year trending is toward something much more positive. We are in need of some great relief this year and perhaps the “endemic” of the pandemic is in sight.
Until then keep getting your vaccines and wearing that mask!
All the best for 2022.
Mike Simpson is a community builder, designer, and award-winning educator from Toronto. He’s the owner of Tdot.com, a design agency specializing in social media, websites and e-learning. Mike has a love for art, culture, design, photography and blogging. He offers training and tutoring, and teaches and develops courses at Tdot Studio and Centennial College. If you would like to hire or work with Mike please reach out via email.