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Oxford Word of the Year

By Tessa Cherian and Christina Wilson

COVID-19. Black Lives Matter. Forest Fires. Presidential Election. These are just a few of the monumental events that have happened in 2020. With all this chaos and unpredictability, Oxford Languages has not been able to choose one word for their annual Word of the Year. Those at Oxford Languages decided that there is not one definitive word that can fully encompass what 2020 has been like, so for their annual Word of the Year, they created multiple lists of words under categories like the pandemic, social justice, and climate change.

One word that jumped out of the page was "workation." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “a workation (also spelled workcation) is a holiday in which one also works.” Many people have experienced workations during quarantine as they continue to work at home. This year, the use of the word has increased five times more than in past years. As people find themselves stuck home for quarantine, they are forced to adapt to working and learning remotely. Workation is a term that symbolizes a shift from normal life to a technology-dependent life.

Sophomore Priya Persaud shared her thoughts on the word.

“This year was filled with anxiety and uncertainty, which led to an increased stress level for all, regardless of status. Personally, we have all had to adjust to new normals and force ourselves to adapt to new working habits,” said Persaud.

Artwork by Kayla Shu

2020 has been such an unprecedented year; a single word could not be picked to encompass the year.

This year, there has also been an increased use of the word "cancel culture,"* which means, “the culture of boycotting and withdrawing support from public figures whose words and actions are considered socially unacceptable." By now, the word has become integrated into daily conversations. People use it to describe social downfalls due to the actions of celebrities and influencers deemed socially unacceptable.

Cancel culture is largely debated between people who view it as spreading hate versus people who view it as spreading the truth. A popular example of cancel culture was when people called out the author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, for her anti-transgender commentary on Twitter. People who disagreed with her views responded with hate comments, saying she was canceled. The hashtag #ripjkrowling circulated on social media and even landed on the trending page on Twitter because so many people felt as if Rowling was now dead to them.

“Anytime I open up my Instagram feed, I see a new celebrity being canceled. It's so prominent nowadays that it shows how prejudiced people truly are,” said junior Sneha George.

Political terms have been consistently used throughout the course of this year’s presidential election. One of the most prominent and related words would be “mail-in ballot.” Due to limitations created by COVID-19, new voting methods have been reinstated, one of them being mail-in ballots. They have been especially controversial because many people argue that these ballots have led to voter fraud, President Trump being one of the most outspoken voices on this topic. As a result of this election, “mail-in ballot” has been used 30 times more in 2020 alone compared to years of the past.

“I felt like this year was the most important year for people to vote. And given the current pandemic, these new ways are beneficial to practice the right to vote and social distancing. Obviously, there is a doubt with mail-in ballots, but I think they are generally valid because the government has taken precautions and security concerns into consideration,” said junior Tesna Cherian.

2020 has been a year of such unexpectedness that no one word could fully encompass the year’s experience. Many are awaiting the new year and hope to see what it holds.

*There is an article on cancel culture in the Features section of The Chariot. It goes more into depth about the effects of the word and how it is used in other examples; go check it out!


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