Column: Nominees for the 2020 word of the year

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Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

During this unprecedented year, we’ve been introduced to a number of words, phrases and terms, many of which we’re eager to erase from our memories. The year 2020 has seen social unrest, political animosity and — of course — the coronavirus. With this bleak backdrop for context, here are Grammar Guy’s nominees for the 2020 word of the year:

Social distancing: I’m not sure who coined this phrase, but it’s not even accurate. The idea is that if we stay physically distant from each other, we will be less likely to spread COVID-19. “Social distancing” is a misnomer because, technically, we can still interact socially, although it has been tremendously harder to do so.

Zoom: I know there are other virtual meeting platforms but Zoom seems to be the most ubiquitous. The videoconferencing service has been around since 2011, but it caught on this year because it’s free (as long as you keep your meeting to 40 minutes or fewer).

Bubble: While I’ve been tempted to purchase a personal bubble (like the “Bubble Boy” episode from “Seinfeld”), the most successful efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 have been in social barriers, most notably with the NBA’s and NHL’s end of the regular season and playoffs. I do love that the WNBA’s version of this became affectionately known as the “wubble.”

Flatten the curve: The idea was that, if we mostly stayed home and severely limited contact with people other than the people living in our homes, the upward trajectory of the coronavirus surge would flatten out. It kind of worked for a few weeks, and then it didn’t. Americans thumbed their collective noses at stay-at-home orders and suggested mask-wearing in the name of personal liberty. Now, new cases are surging. So much for “flattening the curve.”

New normal: If I hear someone say “new normal” one more time, I’ll scream right through my reusable face covering. It’s not new anymore. I’m never going to accept pandemic life as “normal.” Let’s tar and feather “new normal” and run it out of town. Thoughts and prayers.

Sure, it’s been a rough year. In fact, each week has felt like a year all on its own. I’m looking forward to turning the calendar to 2021, when hopefully we’ll get a handle on the coronavirus and start being kinder to each other. What word gets your vote? Is it one on this list, or do you want to nominate a different word? In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be in my bubble.

—Curtis Honeycutt is a syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of “Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life.” For more, visit curtishoneycutt.com.


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