The 2020 Words of the Year are…

2020 is finally over. Happy New Year! Welcome 2021 and hope this year we finally see an end to all the suffering worldwide!

2020 has been a year like no other we have seen in our lifetime for which there is no precedent in living memory. And every year, most dictionaries put out what they feel is the most important word for the year, something that encapsulates what the year has been. The German tradition, Wort des Jahres was started in 1971. The American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year is the oldest English-language version, and the only one that is announced after the end of the calendar year, determined by a vote of independent linguists, and not tied to commercial interest. However, various other organisations also announce Words of the Year for a variety of purposes.

A Word of the Year is a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest over the last 12 months with shortlisted words hotly debated by llexicographers, editors and even the public involved in choosing the word that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance. So the word of the year is one which sums up the state of the world succiently and defines it.

For the first time, the Oxford Dictionary did not come up with a word for 2020 because according to them, it quickly became apparent that 2020 was not a year that could neatly be accommodated in one single “word of the year”, so they decided to report more expansively on the phenomenal breadth of language change and development over the year in their Words of an Unprecedented Year report. This report examines, in detail, the themes that were a focus for language monitoring in 2020, including Covid-19 and all its related vocabulary, political and economic volatility, social activism, the environment, and the rapid uptake of new technologies and behaviours to support remote working and living.  One of the year’s most remarkable linguistic developments, according to them, has been the extent to which scientific terms have entered general discourse, as we have all become armchair epidemiologists, with most of us now familiar with term like R number, flatten the curve and community transmission. You can download the report from here.

The Cambridge Dictionary has chosen Quarantine as their Word for 2020. According to their data, it was one of the most highly searched words on the Cambridge Dictionary this year. Quarantine was the only word to rank in the top five for both search spikes and overall views, more than 183,000 by early November, with the largest spike in searches at 28,545 searches seen the week of 18-24 March, when many countries around the world went into lockdown as a result of COVID-19. Noticing this spike in searches, the Cambridge Dictionary editors started to research how people were using the word quarantine, and found a new meaning emerging: a general period of time in which people are not allowed to leave their homes or travel freely, so that they do not catch or spread a disease. Research showed the word was being used synonymously with lockdown, particularly in the United States, to refer to a situation in which people stay home to avoid catching the disease. This new sense of quarantine has now been added to the Cambridge Dictionary, and marks a shift from the existing meanings, which relate to containing a person or animal suspected of being contagious. The two runner-up words to the word of the year was predictable – lockdown and pandemic. To know more, here is a short video.

Over at the Mariam Webster Dictionary, Pandemic was the word of the year chosen by them. According to Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster, this year the word pandemic is not just technical anymore, but has become a word in general usage and is probably the word which will be used to define this period and searches for the word pandemic on March 11 2020 were 115,806% higher than look-ups experienced on the same date in 2019. The word Pandemic, with roots in Latin and Greek, is a combination of the word pan, which means for all, and demos, for people or population. The latter is the same root of democracy and the word pandemic dates to the mid-1600s, used broadly for universal and more specifically to disease in a medical text in the 1660s, after the plagues of the Middle Ages. According to Sokolowski, the the traffic for pandemic was attributed not entirely to searchers who didn’t know what it meant but also to those on the hunt for more detail, or for inspiration or comfort.

The online dictionary, also had Pandemic as its word of the year for 2020. An overwhelming choice, the word kept running through the profound and manifold ways our lives have been upended — and our language so rapidly transformed—in this unprecedented year. On March 11 when the WHO declared the COVID-19 as a pandemic, when only 4,291 lives were lost around the world, searches for pandemic skyrocketed 13,575% on compared to 2019. The search volume for pandemic sustained the highest levels on the site over the course of 2020, averaging a 1000% increase, month over month, relative to previous years. Because of its ubiquity as the defining context of 2020, it remained in the top 10% of all lookups for much of the year since.

2020 has changed our vocabulary in ways that cannot be fathomed. Words that were previously scientific in nature have now become commonplace and are used in daily usage. Languages are constantly evolving but I don’t think there has been so many changes in such a short period. 2020 will be a year most of us will never forget, for many reasons and the pandemic that COVID-19 brought will be the foremost reason. This is a year, every one, including children will recount to their children and grandchildren and I pray that the future generations learn from our mistakes and don’t repeat them.

2020 Reflections

Most years I usually do a reflection for the year, which is part of my weekly update, but this year, because of how this year was, I thought it warranted a post all by itself.

2020 has been an extremely challenging year for each and every one of us, irrespective of where in the world you live in and what you do. This year we saw the COVID-19 pandemic hit pretty much every nation on earth and this is something none of us saw anything like this before. Not wars, not recessions and no other natural catasrophes came close to shutting down the world like COVID-19 has done.

Singapore went into a circuit breaker or lockdown for two months first in April and that was when S started working from home. The children had already been home for a few months by then since school had not yet started for them. They started their first year of school online and are a bit sore that orientation and other activities traditionally offered to incoming students were either cancelled, offered online or extremely abbreviated. They could not really make friends because they only saw their classmates face to face after months and either formed groups for projects randomly or as assigned to by teachers. They have now made friends within their project groups and they slowly start going back to face-to-face lessons, more for BB than GG, given their respective courses, they are making more friends and getting more used to poly life.

S started working from home sometime in April when the circuit breaker was instituted and has continued to do till now. He is someone who probably does not work well at home, so the initial days were a bit hard on him. He needs to feed off his colleagues and friends at work, and not having colleagues next to him or being able to meet them for a coffee chat or join them for lunch was hard. I am sure this is something a lot of people, baring introverts like me, would have and are facing with not much interaction with colleagues and friends.

As for me, life went on pretty much as usual, though I did lose some employment opportunities and clients because organisations were scaling down following loss of income during this period. But I can’t complain much as I was doing what I was doing pre-COVID, only this time with a house full of people.

For the first time, other than holidays, I had a house full of people living with each other 24/7. GG & BB are grown up now, so I don’t have to pander to them all the time and neither do I have to be behind them for online classes. They are fairly independent and are able to get their own work done and on time. But being the kind of mother that I am, I do keep a close eye on their work and especially during exams and their exam schedule and do make sure at least during this time they spend more time studying.

But my biggest takeaway this year has to be meditation. I have been meditating on and off for a few years now, though I have to say it was more off than on. Around April, I came across an app which was offering the full suite of their offerings free for a year and I took it up. I used to meditate at night before bed and started doing the same. Then I realised that this was why I was not regular, so started meditating in the morning. I usually get up 30 minutes before everyone else and use this time, when everything is quiet and dark to do my daily meditation. And this was what worked best for me. Today, I have been meditating for about nine months now and have not gone a single day without doing some form of meditation or the other. While I will not continue with the app I first used once the free period is over, I will continue with the meditation lessons I have learnt from it and also use other free apps. Meditation has allowed me to become more calm and collected and the things that used to irritate me previously do not as much today. Meditation has now become a part of my life and if I don’t meditate for a few minutes each morning, I feel something is missing that day. I am hopeful that I carry this habit over to 2021 onwards.

I have also introspected a lot this year and have decided that I will not tolerate negativity in my life. I am slowly started eliminating people and things that cause negativity and am taking small baby steps and slowly but surely will get there. We already have too much going on in our lives and to have negative thoughts, ideas and adding negativity to the mix makes life harder. Why do we do this to ourselves was a question I asked myself and the answer was an obvious no.

As I grow older I am also slowly realising the beauty of minimalism. This year, when we hardly left the house and din’t wear makeup and new clothes, I started questioning the need for uncontrolled materialism. I have always been someone who valued experiences over things, so this was not a huge shift in  thinking, but still it was a move in curbing impulse buying. I have very consciously tried not to buy anything new until and unless I really need it. And I am also trying to wait a few days before something so I can check in with myself to see if it is a need or a want, a luxury or a necessity.

2020 has brought about many changes in our lives – both personal and professional. We all have learnt that those who want to work from home are not slacking and in fact, working from home can make you more productive than an office. We have also learnt to live with ourselves and our loved ones. We have learnt that family is important and so are close friends who are the family you choose. We have learnt new normenclatures and new words and phrases have been added to our vocabulary.

My hope for 2021 is a very simple one. For one, I want the world to heal, for the vaccine to generate herd immunity to the disease, so we can all move on and live our lives. I want travel to resume so I can go and visit my parents and make what would probably one of my last trips to my hometown of Mumbai. I also want us to continue being a kinder world that we are today. The world we live in is already very fractured and the kindness generated by people this year should go on as we enter a new year so we continue to help our fellow human beings.

Happy 2021 folks! May this year bring joy, health and happiness to you and your loved ones!

2020 Week 52 Update

The second last week of the year, though in the title it is the last week, but it is the last full week of 2020, a year we are all very happy to bid good bye to!

This was a very quiet week for us, with the children on their term break and S and me having a quiet week because the world pretty much shuts down these two weeks.

The new COVID-19 variants in the world have been worrying since some of the variants are supposed to more contagious. The world has hit 80 million cases which is slightly more than 1 percent of the world’s population as of December 2020.

I have been taking this slight downtime to start on a minimal journey. I am starting with my email accounts and deleting old mails so I can start the new year on a fresh note. Let’s take this last few days of 2020 to reflect on how this year has been and what we want to do and achieve in 2020 which is a year which is full of hope!

When I see you next in this update, it will be 2021, so Happy New Year everyone. It’s a new year and new beginings and may 2021 bring to fruitation all your hopes and wishes with the year being filled with success, happiness and prosperity!

2020 Week 51 Update

We are in the second last week of the year and I have been thinking about how this year has been for me and my family. Since it turned out to be a longish post, I decided to publish it as a separate post, so look out for it soon.

Singapore had a piece of good news early in the week. We will be start phase three next week and this will mean some relief for businesses and people. Weddings and places of worship can now have live music and more people can attend celebrations. This is great news for S’ cousin who is getting married next month, so they can get more people to physically be there instead of watching it online.

Also, Singapore has ordered vaccines and the first batch of the Pzifer vaccines will be here end December. The first people to be vaccinated will be healthcare workers, people working in the frontline and the elderly. The others will follow and vaccinations are not compulsory, but they are encouraging all eligible residents to get themselves vaccinated. Only children under 16, pregnant women and immunocompromised people are not to get vaccinated for now as there is not enough evidence about the safety for these people. The timeline for everyone who wants to get vaccinated is Q3 so by the end of September, every long-term Singapore resident who wants a vaccine will get one free of cost. I for one, can’t wait for my turn to come and will sign up as soon as I am allowed to.

There’s really nothing else happening as we are all on holiday and winding down for the end of the year. Stay safe everyone!

2020 Week 50 Update

The year is running out fast and though there are some glimmers of hope, it still looks like at least the first part of 2021 will be more or less like 2020.

The US is leading as usual, with the highest number of cases at and have daily reported cases of almost a quarter million. India is far behind with about 30 thousand cases reported on a daily basis. Singapore is still holding strong with zero to one or two community cases at the most on a daily basis and the bulk of our cases come from those who arrive into Singapore and are quarantined.

BB finished his mid-terms and started his three week term break yesterday. GG has some assignments to submit this week and then she also starts her term break. Both will go back to school in the new year. As usual, BB is spending all the time he has playing games with his friends and both have made plans to meet up with friends during this period also.

Take care people, especially since the festive season is upon us and make sure you are safe and your family and especially the elderly and the immunocompromised are safer!