Collins Dictionary has named ‘Permacrisis’ their word of the year for 2022 – it means “an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events”. It highlights the ongoing period of turbulence and instability plaguing the UK – from political uncertainty to the cost-of-living crisis. Needless to say, the word applies on a global scale, too. War, inflation and political disturbance are at large, following close behind the devastating healthcare crisis of the COVID pandemic. ‘Permacrisis’ is among 10 words of the year, six of which are brand new to Collins Dictionary.
Several other words chosen also allude to ongoing crises around the world. ‘Kiev’, the capital of Ukraine, is one. Another is ‘Partygate’, defined as “a political scandal over social gatherings held in British government offices during 2020 and 2021 in defiance of the public-health restrictions that prevailed at the time”.
The list also includes ‘Quiet Quitting’, a workplace phenomenon that became extremely popular this year. Collins Dictionary defines it as “the practice of doing no more work than one is contractually obliged to do, especially in order to spend more time on personal activities”.
However, some positive words also made it to the list. ‘Splooting’, “the act of lying flat on the stomach with the legs stretched out”, is often used to describe animals sitting in the adorable pose. ‘Vibe Shift’ refers to “a significant change in a prevailing cultural atmosphere or trend”. ‘Warm Bank’, ‘Carolean’, ‘Lawfare’, and ‘Sportswashing’ also made the cut.
2022’s list is a true testament to the fluidity of language. It is subject to constant change – especially so in the age of social media, when words used online seep into common parlance and even professional spaces. Dictionaries have come around to recognising such words as a part of our ‘official’ vocabulary. Many also fade away from our vocabulary as quickly as they assimilate into it.
Hence, dictionaries seem to carefully choose words that are representative of a certain era. For example, to no one’s surprise, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2020 was ‘Pandemic’. But in 2021, they chose ‘Vaccine’, given that people looked it up 600% more that year as compared to the last. Both words seldom featured in everyday chit-chat pre-2020. But in the two years that followed, one could hardly imagine holding a conversation without them.
Although, ‘Permacrisis’ seems like it could encapsulate the past three years. One can only hope it loses validity in 2023.