Education

Merriam-Webster chooses vaccine as the 2021 word of the year

Merriam-Webster has declared vaccination as the word of the year for 2021, with an enlarged definition to match the times.

“Every single day in 2021, this was a word that was exceptionally high in our data,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-editor-at-large, Webster’s told The Associated Press ahead of the announcement on Monday.

“It essentially tells two separate stories.” The first is the science story, which focuses on the vaccines’ incredible speed of development. However, there are also disagreements on policy, politics, and political affiliation. “It’s just one word that connects these two massive stories,” he explained.

The choice follows the publication of the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year, “vax.” It also comes after Merriam-Webster named “pandemic” as one of the top search terms on its website last year.

“The pandemic was the trigger, and now we’re dealing with the aftermath,” Sokolowski said.

Lookups for “vaccine” surged 601% at Merriam-Webster between 2020 and December, when the first U.S. shot was administered in New York following months of speculation and debate about its efficacy. The world’s first jab took place in the United Kingdom earlier that month.

Merriam-Webster saw a 1,048 percent spike in lookups this year compared to last year, when there was minimal urgency or talk regarding vaccines. Sokolowski claimed that debates over inequitable distribution, vaccine regulations, and boosters kept interest high. Vaccine apprehension and disagreements regarding vaccine passports also had a role.

The term “vaccine” was not coined in a single day or in response to a single pandemic. The first known use dates from 1882, however references to fluid from cowpox pustules used in inoculations can be found earlier, according to Sokolowski.

It was borrowed from the New Latin “vaccina,” which goes back to Latin’s feminine “vaccinus,” meaning “of or from a cow.” The Latin for cow is “vacca,” a word that might be akin to the Sanskrit “vasa,” according to Merriam-Webster.

Lookups for “vaccine” surged 601% at Merriam-Webster between 2020 and December, when the first U.S. shot was administered in New York following months of speculation and debate about its efficacy. The world’s first jab took place in the United Kingdom earlier that month.

Merriam-Webster saw a 1,048 percent spike in lookups this year compared to last year, when there was minimal urgency or talk regarding vaccines. Sokolowski claimed that debates over inequitable distribution, vaccine regulations, and boosters kept interest high. Vaccine apprehension and disagreements regarding vaccine passports also had a role.

The term “vaccine” was not coined in a single day or in response to a single pandemic. The first known use dates from 1882, however references to fluid from cowpox pustules used in inoculations can be found earlier, according to Sokolowski.

Inoculation, on the other hand, dates from 1714 and refers to the process of injecting a “inoculum” in one sense.

Merriam-Webster updated its online definition of “vaccine” earlier this year to include all references to mRNA vaccines, or messenger vaccines, such as those created by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna for COVID-19.

After screening out evergreens, Merriam-Webster bases its decision on lookup data, paying special attention to surges and, more recently, year-over-year growth in searches. Since 2008, the firm has named a word of the year. The following are the runners-up in the 2021 word biography competition:

INSURRECTION: Interest was driven by the deadly Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol. Arrests continue, as do congressional hearings over the attack by supporters of President Donald Trump. Some of Trump’s allies have resisted subpoenas, including Steve Bannon.

Searches for the word increased by 61,000% over 2020, Sokolowksi said.

INFRASTRUCTURE: President Joe Biden was able to deliver what Trump often spoke of but never achieved: A bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law. When Biden proposed help with broadband access, eldercare and preschool, conversation changed from not only roads and bridges but “figurative infrastructure,” Sokolowski said.

“Many people asked, what is infrastructure if it’s not made out of steel or concrete? Infrastructure, in Latin, means underneath the structure,” he said.

PERSEVERANCE: It’s the name of NASA’s latest Mars rover. It landed Feb. 18, 2021. “Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to the Red Planet, with a name that embodies NASA’s passion, and our nation’s capability, to take on and overcome challenges,” the space agency said.

The name was thought up by Alexander Mather, a 14-year-old seventh-grader at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. He participated in an essay contest organized by NASA. He was one of 28,000 K-12 students to submit entries.

NOMAD: The word had its moment with the 2020 release of the film “Nomadland.” It went on to win three Oscars in April 2021, including best picture, director (Chloé Zhao) and actress (Frances McDormand). Zhao became the first woman of color to win best director.

The AP’s film writer Jake Coyle called the indie success “a plain-spoken meditation on solitude, grief and grit. He wrote that it “struck a chord in a pandemic-ravaged year. It made for an unlikely Oscar champ: A film about people who gravitate to the margins took center stage.”

Other words in Merriam-Webster’s Top 10: Cicada (we had an invasion), guardian (the Cleveland Indians became the Cleveland Guardians), meta (the lofty new name of Facebook’s parent company), cisgender (a gender identity that corresponds to one’s sex assigned at birth), woke (charged with politics and political correctness) and murraya (a tropical tree and the word that won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee for 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde).

Dear Reader,
Every day, we strive to bring the most accurate, up-to-date, and complete information to our readers like you. It requires money to produce good journalism. We're asking for your help today to help us do more. Your contribution ensures that Metro Times can continue to provide good journalism to people all over the world.  Donate or sign up for as little as N1,000 to become a member. Learn more about our membership here

Bank transfers can be made to:
Union Bank Plc
0139921998
Micnaij Media Ltd


Inquiries:
Email: info@metrotimesng.com
Whatsapp: +234 701 162 0455

Leave a Reply