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2020’s Abuzz with Buzzwords

2020 will forever be known as the year of COVID-19, aka the pandemic that put the world to a screeching halt. Its existence resulted in a drastic change in terms of health, everyday living and society in general. The reality of its infection did more than cause sickness and a rollercoaster of stories (both the good and the bad) – it also added new words to the population’s daily dictionary.

2020’s One Heck of a Language Ride

According to the Global Language Monitor, a data research company that analyzes, documents and tracks language trends worldwide, announced COVID is the top word of 2020. During its mid-year update, the organization reported that COVID received the highest number of citations in their global survey, even outranking their previous Words of the Year.
Superspreader and social distancing are words that were rarely used prior to the pandemic but have become common buzzwords in 2020. The list of buzzwords goes on – most of them used to describe limited socialization, loss of jobs and even the closing of sports events, placing the need for sports production services on a pause.


Although COVID-19 is responsible for many linguistic changes in 2020, it wasn’t the only force. Stories of social injustice and racism have a significant contribution to 2020’s list of words – Karen, BIPOC and “defund the police” are now part of today’s literary discourse.
Social movements and COVID-19 have had such influences on language that there is no ONE word to describe the year. There are plenty of them.


Buzzwords of 2020

BIPOC (initialism). An acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous and Other People of Color; the terms intend to highlight the experiences and identities of the Black, Native American and other POC communities in the country.


Covid (noun). The short-hand term for COVID-19; the term has the most citations ever recorded in the 21st COVID-19, the official name of the diseases caused by the SARS CoV-2 virus, is also part of the list.


Defund (verb). To withdraw financial support; also refers to as a call to defund the police, which is a movement that promotes public safety. This word has been used to demand the shift of monetary resources from law enforcement to community-led initiatives and social programs.


Doomscroll (verb). Addictively scrolling through social media news feeds, reading about the bad news only 2020 has to offer; something people do before they go to sleep.


Face mask (noun). A face covering that helps reduce the spread of the virus to different degrees, depending on the material used and the number of layers.


Fake news (noun). An oxymoron that describes the prevalence of fake news regarding the pandemic, social injustice and other troubling news.


Flatten the curve (phrase). Refers to the ability to manage the cases of COVID-19 to prevent overwhelming the hospital system.


“In the time of COVID” (phrase). Often used to give readers a context on what they are about to read; basically, readers must understand the piece was written during the time of social distancing and other COVID-related restrictions.


Karen, (noun). A woman’s name is used as a colloquial term for a white woman using her privilege at the expense of a BIPOC person. Karen is often used as a meme, which is often combined with images of a white woman. They’re the ones who are often “asking for the manager” or insisting that respect is earned already if you are white.


Lockdown (noun). Restricting the movement of people outside of their homes to reduce the spread of the infection.


On mute, (idiom). Often used when another video-call participant is speaking without turning on their microphone. “You’re on mute” is a popular phrase used by people on Zoom and other video conferencing platforms.


Quarantine (noun). A restriction of the population’s physical movements to their home or institution.


Social distancing (noun). A set of measures implemented to reduce the spread of a contagious disease.


Zoombombing (verb). The unwanted or unplanned intrusion of a stranger (often a troll) into a video conference.;


How about you? Do you have new words from 2020?;

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