Now it’s a truism of the news industry that good news is the minor player to bad news, it’s just that in 2020 the words of Don McLean have rung hard and true: “bad news on the doorstep, I couldn’t take another step”. If 2020 returns in 2021 we can all just pull down the blinds and go from doomscrolling to “we’reallroonedscrolling”.

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At least my name isn’t Karen. The Macquarie says it’s the People’s Choice for Word of the Year. To be a Karen was to be a “middle-class white woman, often generation X, who is regarded as having an entitled, condescending and often racist attitude”. As witnessed during the pandemic, to be confronted by a certain type of Karen was not to be desired. It’s quite possible Bunnings staff have had to undergo special training in how to deal with Karens.

It would have been remiss of the Macquarie not to have had a COVID category. Come forward covidiot. The idiots of the coronavirus pandemic compressed to one word. It took the gong as the people’s choice. But in this COVID category, the word of the year has gone to a non-word. Rona beat off contenders such as bubble, elbow bump and hub. Some examples: “we met online during the rona; rona wrecked their wedding plans”.

If there was one bit of luck in this benighted year it was the affliction had a name that was fertile ground for lexicographical harvesting. How easy it was to go from coronavirus to my corona to our rona. Worn down by being stuck in iso, scrapping at the supermarket for loo paper who could be bothered or have the energy to damn to the heavens a five-syllable word. Two syllables. Perfect.

Overseas it was more prosaic. Merriam-Webster and Dicionary.com both went with pandemic for word of the year, mainly on the weight of its usage. A researcher at Dictionary.com said searches for the word increased 13,500 percent in March when WHO mentioned it. At Merriam-Webster the spike was 115,806 per cent.

Such has been the year in news Oxford Dictionaries couldn’t decide on one word. There were several, under the somewhat ironic heading Words of an Unprecedented Year. They include COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and lockdown.

Come the new year I hope not to be doomscrolling or even being assailed by the exploits of the Karen or the covidiot. My word, what a year that would be.



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