Following up on the existential linguistic crisis of 2019, Dictionary.com has awarded their "Word of the Year" distinction to "pandemic." The website tends to favor a descriptivist, rather than prescriptive, approach to language (which is the correct way to do it), and while their announcement of this news acknowledges that a whole lot of other shit happened in 2020, none of those other things had as big of an impact on language as "pandemic." They explain:
On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the first caused by a coronavirus. "Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly," Director-General Tedros Adhanom observed of this momentous announcement.
That day, when COVID-19 had then only taken 4,291 lives around the world, searches for pandemic skyrocketed 13,575% on Dictionary.com compared to 2019. Pandemic joined a cluster of other terms that users searched in massive numbers, whether to learn an unfamiliar word used during a government briefing or to process the swirl of media headlines: asymptomatic, CDC, coronavirus, furlough, nonessential, quarantine, and sanitizer, to spotlight a few.
But of all these many queries, search volume for pandemic sustained the highest levels on site over the course of 2020, averaging a 1000% increase, month over month, relative to previous years. Because of its ubiquity as the defining context of 2020, it remained in the top 10% of all lookups for much of the year since.
A number of new pandemic-related words cropped up this year as well. While none of these "coronacoinages" quite fit the website's criteria for Official Word Inclusion yet, they're keeping an eye out on their continued use in American English. These include:
the Before Times
"This outbreak of new language—matched by a surge of searches for these terms on site—is unlike anything we've ever seen at Dictionary.com," they explain. Which is appropriate, because this pandemic is unlike anything anyone else has seen either.
The Dictionary.com Word Of The Year For 2020 Is … [Dictionary.com]
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