A word in your year

In a year of firsts, the Oxford English Dictionary has declared that it won’t be naming a word of the year. Apparently, 2020 has proved to be a year “which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word”. Really?

For reference, last year’s Word of the Year was Climate Emergency. Oddly, one might have thought that the bright sparks at the Oxford University Press which publishes the OED would have picked up the fact that this is, in fact, two words. Unlike Toxic (2018) and Youthquake (2017). Be honest. Have you ever used the word Youthquake?

Candidates for the Word of the Year are “drawn from evidence gathered by an extensive language research program which gathers around 150 million words of current English from web-based publications each month. Sophisticated software allows expert lexicographers to identify new and emerging words and examine the shifts in how more established words are being used.”  Then, a panel of judges sits down to make the final choice. Beats the hell out of Crufts.

What is most extraordinary about OED’s “unprecedented” (their term) decision is that arguably, for the first time ever, there is such a clear winner. Wouldn’t it be quite extraordinary if every other word, from their pool of zillions, didn’t begin with the letter C?
Insight is still trying to come to terms with OED’s heinous omission. Somehow, the segue from 2020 to 2021 just won’t be the same without the reassuring knowledge that out there somewhere, there’s, you know, that word. Or two if 2019 is ever to be repeated.

So, in an effort to contain ours and the nation’s disappointment, Insight now offers its own counter-cultural version of Word of the Year.
In an extensive poll of nearly ten people, chosen at random, for their grasp of English and their eagerness to be part of a counter cultural movement, we asked which words or phrases they would most wish not to see next year. A sort of Not Word of the Year 2021 if you like.
To be fair, having conducted the exercise, it did give some insight into the OED’s dilemma. So many new words (and phrases) seem to have entered our everyday language. But in the interests of the many Insight word lovers everywhere, the judging panel (modelled on the Oxford Corpus) ploughed on and adjudicated on the plethora of suggestions.

Of course there are the obvious C-related ones but some of slightly left of field suggestions for Not Word of the Year 2021 include unmute! e-meet and next slide please. (The panel decided to allow phrases too).

Both Trump and Cummings stand out as some of the few Not words which might actually be self-fulfilling. R-rate, queue, PPE and new normal scored highly. Hancock gained traction after his appearance on Good Morning Britain in which he appeared overcome with emotion. Brexit, Europe and deal have made a late surge.

But, drum roll please. The panel has judged that the Not Word 2021 is…unprecedented. Please, try to remember not to use it.

Let’s hope we won’t have to.