Year 2020 in the words coined during the pandemic

For the past 7 years Royal Academy of Spanish Language (RAE) has been selecting words that describe best the passing calendar year. In 2019 fourteen words were selected as those that reflect what occurred in the year. Among them were Eurosceptic, refuge and climate. 2018 was the year of microplastic and 2015, linked to massive arrivals of asylum seekers to Europe-a refugee.

The language is a mirror of our daily lives, of the changes on the political scene and economic ups and downs. There are new terms coined, words are borrowed from other languages and existing ones take on a new meaning. The language evolves as times change and 2020, long before its end, has yielded plenty of expressions that we no longer can imagine our lives without. Potential candidates for the word of the year have been sprouting over the past five months and there still might be more to come.

Here is our take on the NEW NORMAL in the words of post pandemic language.

As we learned that a virus named Covid-19, originated in China, became a pandemic, most governments announced lockdowns which varied in length and forms across countries. This was meant to encourage social distancing to curtail the spread of the virus, a practice which banned social gatherings, going to the gym or visiting family members. As a result, kids, barred from attending in-person classes, have been   homeschooled ever since while their parents worked from home. This, too, had an impact on travel – perhaps tourism is the industry that felt most impacted initially. As flights were grounded, excessive staff were furloughed. With curfews being extended or intensified, furloughs were not enough of a measure to keep the companies afloat – millions of people across all industries were laid off. With no travel in sight, some airlines failed for bankruptcy, others in a bid to reinvent themselves, retired some of their aircrafts that no longer served the purpose. Virtual meetings – conferences, family gatherings, workshops – took a central stage in our agendas as the internet remained the only virus free place that enabled us to stay in touch.

Easing imposed restrictions was possible thanks to the drop in new cases. Face masks became a norm (and a cumbersome artefact) in compliance with new safety guidelines. Local travel became the pillar of tourism and travel campaigns stress near and local to incentivize domestic travel, while staycation and daycations have joined the array of words we would rarely use.

This year will undoubtedly go down in the history as the year of many adjectives and one very important noun – PANDEMIC. There is still hope though, that the prefix RE– will fix what has been ruined so far: borders will reopen, business activity will restart and many people, who stumbled over a stone in the professional career, will seek to reinvent themselves. Let us hope that this year will be remembered as the year of the recovery and resurgence and we can welcome next one with a VACCINE.

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