Well, it’s sort of two words.
But Collins Dictionary has revealed its “Word of the Year” — and it says a lot about living in 2018.
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They chose “single-use” — meaning a product made to use once only — referring to the increasing global support to crack down on plastics used once before being thrown away.
Collins’ lexicographers — the word used to describe people who compile dictionaries, and who, by the way, gave themselves the most awesome name — select their Word of the Year based on what they feel best captures the mood of the world.
Other words that made the final shortlist included “vegan”, “whitewash”, and “gammon” — the word used to describe older white men who often go red in the face with political outrage. “Backstop”, “#metoo”, “floss”, “gaslight”, “plogging”, and “VAR” rounded off the list.
Last year, the Oxford Dictionary announced that the children’s word of the year was “plastic” — and since then momentum has only grown.
“Images of plastic adrift in the most distant oceans, such as straws, bottles and bags, have led to a global campaign to reduce their use,” said a Collins spokesperson. “The word [single-use] has seen a four-fold increase since 2013.”
One such image they might have been referring to is that heartbreaking scene in David Attenborough’s nature documentary Blue Planet II where an albatross fed plastic to its chicks.
And it worked — new research from Waitrose revealed that 88% of people who watched Blue Planet II have since changed their behaviour as a result. There's even a new David Attenborough documentary set to be released on Netflix in 2019.
It’s since provoked a wave of support for plastic bans around the world — including a historic ban on plastics in the European parliament. It’s expected to be implemented in 2021, and will become the world’s most ambitious plastic ban.
Elsewhere, the UK banned microbeads — a form of microplastic often found in shampoos and soaps — in January, and could ban plastic straws, cotton buds, and drink stirrers as early as next year. Fans of wet wipes should probably avert their eyes — they’re behind 93% of all sewage blockages in Britain, and might be banned by the government too.
'Single-use' = word of the year.— Catherine Gemmell (@cathgem2000) November 7, 2018
This shows a huge rise in awareness of single-use & why most of the time it makes no sustainable sense!
Now we need ACTION to ensure this concept of single use, especially for unnecessary plastic - is replaced by circular economy or zero waste! pic.twitter.com/yE1EcQ6qT6
“This has been a year where awareness and often anger over a variety of issues has led to the rise of new words and the revitalisation and adaptation of old ones,” said Helen Newstead, Collin's head of language content. “It’s clear from this year’s words of the year list that changes to our language are dictated as much by public concern as they are by sport, politics, and playground fads."
"The words in this year’s list perhaps highlight a world at extremes — at one end, serious social and political concerns, and at the other, more light-hearted activities," she added.
Collins chose "Brexit" as its Word of the Year in 2016, and "fake news" — another two for one deal — last year. Maybe just rename it Words of the Year next time?