Monday, January 31, 2022

Vax and Vaccine: The Words of the Year 2021

The dictionaries have been announcing the word of the year since the 1990s. For 2021, word of the year for the American dictionary, Merriam-Webster (M-W), and the British dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), is almost similar. I say “almost” because, for M-W the word of the year is “vaccine,” and for the OED, it is “vax.” The dictionaries should inform Microsoft and Apple that “vax is now officially a word—my Mac Pages word processor is showing a red squiggly line under “vax,” and most of this word’s formulations. 

In its entry on “vax,” the OED offers a number of related forms: “vax” is a noun and it means vaccine or vaccination; its verb form is “vax”; if you take a photograph of yourself getting vaccinated, then it is called “vaxxie,” which is a noun and a cool sounding name for a vaccination selfie; if you are opposed to vaccination, then you are “anti-vax,” which is an adjective, the noun form being “anti-vaxxer”; if you had two doses of the vaccination, then you would be “double-vaxxed,” which is an adjective. 

M-W has revised its definition of “vaccine” to include the new vaccinations that have become possible with RNA. The list of words whose definitions M-W has revised include: “woke,” “insurrection,” and “cisgender.” The American Dialect Society has selected “insurrection” (referring to the January 6 attacks on the US Capitol) as its word of the year for 2021.

“NFT” (noun) is the word of the year for the British dictionary Collins. “NFT” means non-fungible token, or a unique digital certificate. In a list of ten words, Collins has three new pandemic related words, “double-vaxxed,” “pingdemic,” and “hybrid working,” and two that are related to social and environmental issues, “climate anxiety” and “neopronoun.” 

“Perseverance” (noun) is the word of the year 2021 for the British dictionary Cambridge. According to Cambridge, there was a spike in the usage of this word since NASA's Perseverance Rover landed on Mars. Among the synonyms for perseverance, an article in Cambridge thesaurus suggests the American word: “stick-to-it-iveness.” M-W and other dictionaries have also updated the definition of perseverance.

The words of the year 2021 that the American and British dictionaries have selected, and the words that they have added, seem to indicate that the conservatives have lost the war of words. The English language has taken a leftist turn but this has not happened in 2021, or even in the twenty-first century. The conservatives have always been impotent in the intellectual space. A focus on things like grammar, vocabulary, and critical thinking is something that I expect from the leftist minds, never from the conservatives.

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