Published: 30th November 2019
Words of the year 2019: Oxford Dictionary names 'climate emergency', Cambridge selects 'upcycling'
The term ‘climate strike’ is synonymous with 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. She became a globally recognised climate activist for her ‘Fridays for Future’ movement
At the end of every calendar year, different dictionaries announce their ‘Word of the Year’ (WOTY). Linguaphiles (lovers of language) and logophiles (lovers of words) eagerly wait for Oxford, Cambridge and Collins dictionaries to make their choices known to the world. Surprisingly, these three dictionaries have chosen climate-related words this year as WOTY. Oxford Dictionaries has named ‘climate emergency’, Collins Dictionary has chosen ‘climate strike’ and Cambridge Dictionary has selected ‘upcycling’ as their WOTY 2019.
How are the words chosen? Using sophisticated software, lexicographers analyse the popularity and use of many new and emerging words in corpora, identify the contenders and shortlist some words and finally, select their WOTY. If words are chosen based on their predominance in headlines and widespread use, then a few words related to climate have been widely used this year thanks to some climate activists and awareness about the climate crisis.
The term ‘climate strike’ is synonymous with sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. She became a globally recognised climate activist for her ‘school strike for the climate’ action and ‘Fridays for Future’ movement. What does ‘climate strike’ mean? According to Collins Dictionary, ‘climate strike’ is ‘a form of protest in which people absent themselves from education or work in order to join demonstrations demanding action to counter climate change’. Here are examples of how the term has been used in sentences:
-We should extend our support to climate activists and be part of the ongoing global climate strike.
- Some educational institutions are reluctant to organise any climate strike event.
Oxford Dictionaries define climate emergency as ‘a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it’. The other shortlisted environmental words included ‘climate action’, ‘climate denial’, ‘eco-anxiety’, ‘extinction’ and ‘flight shame’.
- We are now in the biggest emergency ever — the climate emergency.
- Though some countries have declared a ‘climate emergency’, no concrete steps have been taken by them to address the issue.
The word ‘upcycling’ means creative reuse. It is ‘the activity of making new things out of old or used things’. Environmental activists create awareness among the public about the need to reduce the amount
of waste that is dumped. The purpose of upcycling is to convert unwanted and waste products into some useful products. What is the difference between ‘upcycling’ and ‘recycling’? ‘Recycling is often a chemical reconstruction of the materials, while upcycling is a complete alteration, making something completely new out of waste or used products’. Upcycling being a creative activity enhances the value of the original product. The verb form of upcycling is ‘upcycle’. The person who upcycles is called an upcycler.
- I found many upcycled products in a gift shop and I bought a necklace made of watch parts.
- She is an upcycler. There are many upcycled products in her house.