I thought I would boil 2020 down to one precise word. An easy task, I thought. Is it COVID-19? Covid? Coronavirus? Or pandemic? The cause for so much change, havoc and disruption, but doesn’t sufficiently describe the year of hygiene rigour, social distancing, self-isolating or quarantining.
I needed Google’s top results to settle this. No such luck.
Even the original super-spreader, Twitter, asked its followers to come up with one word to describe 2020. They got over 120,000 responses but no winning word.
Every year the lexicographers at Oxford Dictionaries declare a word that crystalizes the year. I’ll use that. But this year, they said due to “the phenomenal breadth of language change and development during 2020,” they couldn’t conclude on one single word. They did, however, publish over 40 words! My favourites were “covidiot” (a person who disobeys guidelines or is an anti-masker) and “blursday” (when days become indistinguishable from each other). It feels like another blursday here.
I thought of using the exasperated words that have been as routine as my breakfast: “challenging,” “unprecedented,” “crazy,” and “new normal.” But all these words can’t capture it all. Everything was out of whack, including the weather, the economy, education, politics, health care, sports, work and play.
There were many new words focused just on working from home/remotely, such as “muting” and “unmuting,” “staycation” that turned into “workcation,” “zoom fatigue,” “e-learning,” and everything digital. I have become accustomed to my “waist-up” work wardrobe, complete with cozy slippers.
Allow me to pivot and get dark for a moment. There was also horrible images of 2020 seared into my memory like Dante’s Inferno-the rows of refrigerated trailers filled with New York City’s COVID victims (Hot Zone), the hellish fires that raged through Australia and California (Black Summer), the political circus in the USA, the lockdown of elderly in senior residences, the brutal death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (Black Lives Matter) and the scared faces of health care works from wearing protective masks (PPE). Dark indeed.
But this darkness made the rays of hope shine even brighter. The world became greener (albeit the flow of parcels), people got closer to nature and the outdoors, and a more profound love grew within our support bubbles or pods. Simple things became more precious-family, friends, pets, baking, toilet paper, disinfectant, local community retailers, essential services and hugs.
I was proud to watch (and continue to watch) the science community rise to the challenge, to help patients and frontline warriors battle the pandemic. I’m grateful for all their work to develop and roll out vaccines to alter the war against the pandemic.
In reflection, my word for 2020 is “shift.” The events in 2020 have profoundly shifted our consciousness and social environment to a new reality. What we do with this new reality will give way to new words for years to come.
I want to thank all the people who helped me get through this year by shifting to the new realities.
Happy holidays to you and your bubble, and a very prosperous and healthy New Year!
What is your word to describe the year 2020? Please no profanity or expletives.