malarkey, icon, mamba, defund,…

What do these words have in common? They have all been buzzwords in 2020.

According to Merriam-Webster, the well-known American English dictionary, these words were among the most popular look-ups during 2020:

  • malarkey, meaning silly behaviour, was used by Joe Biden in the first presidential debate with Donald Trump.
  • icon, meaning symbol, was a popular word referring to John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died this year.
  • mamba, a kind of snake, was part of Kobe Bryant’s epithet, the Black Mamba.
  • defund, meaning withdraw financial support, was principally heard in the slogan Defund the police, widely used following the murder of George Floyd.

In a run-of-the-mill year any of these words could have been a contender for English Word of the Year 2020. But this has not been a normal year. And all candidates for Word of the Year 2020 are related to the pandemic.

In fact, Merriam-Webster has chosen pandemic itself, as has Dictionary.com. Collins has chosen lockdown. In contrast, Oxford English Dictionary has declined to reach a verdict. The Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English has chosen Karen and covidiot. And the Cambridge Dictionary has chosen quarantine.

As for Catalan and Spanish Words of the Year, we will still have to wait and see. We will publish news in this regard in the comments section of this article.

Richard Samson

Acerca de Richard Samson

I’m a teacher living in Osona, Spain. I'm into tennis, dogs, and chickens. I’m also interested in translation and Moodle (well, digital tools for teaching, in general).
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