As the world becomes increasingly aware of the damage caused by plastic waste, more and more people are turning their backs on disposable packaging, making the term “single-use” an everyday expression. While these words may have once epitomised a carefree and convenient lifestyle, it has now come to symbolise society’s worst excesses. Images of plastic adrift in the ocean, causing the suffering and death of marine animals, have led to a global campaign to reduce its use. “Single-use” is now four times as common as it was in 2013.
Green issues feature elsewhere on this year’s list of most commonly used words, with “plogging” also emerging as a popular term. In my humble opinion, this is a somewhat contrived word to describe the Scandinavian fitness craze that combines jogging with picking up litter.
Further down the list, Brexit has much to answer for, not least of which is the emergence of the word “gammon” as an insult to describe “middle-aged white men with reactionary views, especially one who supports the withdrawal of Britain from the EU”. Traditionally associated with meat from the hind legs of a pig, the word has become sufficiently widespread during 2018 to be included in the dictionary’s annual list.
Reflecting our understandable preoccupation with all things Brexit, “backstop” – a system that will come into effect if no other arrangement is made – also made the list.
And the rest. . .
Other newly popular words and phrases this year include:
- Floss – A dance in which people twist their hips in one direction while swinging their arms in the opposite direction with the fists closed. ‘Strictly’ viewers may recall this is cricketer Graeme Swann’s signature dance move. A considerably younger demographic will know it as the victory dance performed by the winning gamer’s avatar in the hit online video game Fortnite.
- Gaslight – To attempt to manipulate a person by continually presenting them with false information until they doubt their sanity.
- #MeToo – The cultural movement that seeks to expose and eradicate predatory sexual behaviour, especially in the workplace.
- VAR – Football fans will remember stands for Video Assistant Referee, which was frequently called on to examine controversial decisions by the ref in this year’s World Cup.
- Vegan – Fellow animal lovers and environmentalists will share my delight at the inclusion of this word as the popularity of choosing not to eat or use animal-based products goes from strength to strength in Britain.
- Whitewash – The casting of white actors as characters from minority ethnic groups has led to protests this year.
Every year, lexicographers for Collins create an annual list of new and notable words that reflect ever-changing culture and the preoccupations of those who experience it. Long-time readers of my blog may recall that since the award’s inception, these timely terms have been singled out for special recognition: geek (2013), photobomb (2014), binge-watch (2015), Brexit (2016) and fake news (2017).
Helen Newstead, head of language content at Collins, described 2018 as “a year where awareness and often anger over a variety of issues has led to the rise of new words and the revitalisation and adaptation of old ones. The words in this year’s list perhaps highlight a world at extremes — at one end, serious social and political concerns, and at the other, more light-hearted activities.”
Photo reproduced courtesy of CNN https://edition.cnn.com/2018/11/06/health/word-of-year-scli-intl/index.html