It is a well-known fact that major events, movements and innovations all influence language, otherwise why did words such as carbon footprint, tweet, hashtag, fake news, 9/11 and bailouts become permanent features of language? That is also true of crises. A need arises to encapsulate the new reality in words. But language not only reflects what is happening at the moment; it also helps shape how we perceive that reality. So being positive, using a touch of humour or just being creative automatically makes a crisis seem less dramatic – appealing terms, such as coronials to denote babies born during the coronavirus pandemic, make the whole situation easier for us to accept.
Covid determined the words of the year 2021 in most countries but with a word like Pandemial trending in 2022, it is likely to shape our language long term.
Because processes of change and drastic social issues influence our perception far into the future, it is particularly interesting to see that the annual survey of the “Future Institute” in Germany has come up with the word Pandemials as the trend word for 2022. The institute describes the term as a word for the follow-on generation to the millennials and Gen Z. Generally speaking, a Pandemial is old enough to be conscious of the full impact of Covid-19 on their lives, but not old enough to remember life before 9/11. They have been particularly affected by the measures taken during the pandemic, learning how to deal with recurrent virus waves and lockdowns. Using disinfectant and regularly washing their hands are as normal for them as cleaning their teeth. Merriam-Webster and the Oxford Dictionary stayed with the pandemic for their choice, naming vaccine and vax respectively as their words of the year. Oxford explained its choice of the shorter word as follows: “the numerous derivatives... in a wide range of informal contexts, from vax sites and vax cards to getting vaxxed and being fully vaxxed, no word better captures the atmosphere of the past year.” The Cambridge Dictionary was thinking along the same lines when it chose the word perseverance, summing up the “undaunted will of people across the world never to give up, despite the many challenges of 2021.” Social trends were also given the nod, with Dictionary.com choosing allyship as its word of the year. Allyship is defined as “the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership.”
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