What is the 2020 Word of the Year?

In keeping with the tradition of commemorating the past year in every way possible, what language milestone has been honored as the Word of the Year for 2020?

Like everything else about this last trip around the sun, it gets messy.

Dictionary.com honored (surprise!) pandemic (https://www.dictionary.com/e/word-of-the-year/) — “…our choice was overwhelmingly clear. From our perspective as documenters of the English language, one word kept running through the profound and manifold ways our lives have been upended—and our language so rapidly transformed—in this unprecedented year.”

In keeping with the disease theme, Lexico picked quarantine (https://www.lexico.com/explore/word-of-the-year ) — “Not only does the word quarantine capture the public health measures and lived experience of Covid-19, it also illustrates the astonishing transformation of the lexicon because of the pandemic.”

The non-profit American Dialect Society (ADS), founded in 1889 to study the English language in North America, went with Covid (https://www.americandialect.org/2020-word-of-the-year-is-covid) — Ben Zimmer, chair of the ADS New Words Committee and language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, said “A year ago, the word Covid didn’t even exist, and now it has come to define our lives in 2020.” 

But our language in the year 2020 is best characterized in the approach taken by the authoritative Oxford Languages, the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. They simply couldn’t agree on one word. “What struck the team as most distinctive in 2020 was the sheer scale and scope of change,” said Katherine Connor Martin, the company’s head of product. “This event was experienced globally and by its nature changed the way we express every other thing that happened this year,” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/22/arts/oxford-word-of-the-year-coronavirus.html). To get their full story and download their report, Words of an Unprecedented Year, go to “Word of the Year 2020” (https://languages.oup.com/word-of-the-year/2020/).

So here’s to a new year.

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