Merriam-Webster added a staggering 455 new words to the dictionary in October. Some aren’t exactly new (hasn’t dad bod been a thing for a while?), but are newly welcomed to the inner sanctum of the dictionary world.
Many did not relate exactly to the pandemic, either, but notice that air fryer made the list. If you didn’t get an air fryer or a puppy during the pandemic, did you really experience full pandemic lockdown life? I don’t think so. For the record, I secretly want a (timeshare) puppy, but settled for an air fryer, that handy small appliance shown here that gives you fried deliciousness with only a teeny bit of oil. It’s fantastic.
As the pandemic drags on, its influence on the language we use continues. Here are some of the terms in widespread enough use to now be official:
- Breakthrough, as in breakthrough cases or breakthrough infection: An infection occurring in someone who is fully vaccinated.
- Long COVID: A persistent condition following an initial recovery from a COVID-19 infection, marked by symptoms like fatigue, cough, headache, shortness of breath or brain fog. Long-hauler was added in January, referring to someone who experiences one or more long-term effects following initial improvement or recovery from a serious illness, like, oh, COVID-19.
- Super-spreader: An event or location where a significant number of people contract the same communicable disease, like, oh, COVID-19.
- Vaccine passport: Proof of vaccination. Particularly against you know what.
The “quick and informal nature of messaging, texting, and tweeting” contributed to these abbreviated expressions:
- Amirite: “Am I right?” Often used to draw attention to a possibly clever play on words, or jokingly indicate “definitely right.”
- Because: Stands in for “because of…,” often in a humorous way to convey vagueness about the exact reasons for something. “The process works because science.” May be accompanied by shrugging of shoulders.
- FTW: “For the win,” especially used to express approval or support or acknowledge a clever or funny response on social media.
- TBH: “To be honest.”
Dad bod, by the way, falls under the category of Words from Pop Culture. It describes a physique regarded as typical of an average father, especially one slightly overweight and not extremely muscular. Ouch.
Meanwhile, dictionaries are merrily planning to anoint their Word of the Year. With two months to go, Oxford Languages has already spoken: Vax. By September it was already in use over 72 times more than at the same time last year.
COVID-19 dominated the Words of the Year for 2020. Any bets for the same for 2021?