Strollout chosen as Macquarie dictionary’s 2021 word of the year

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<span>Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA</span>
Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA

Play on words describing Australia’s slow vaccine rollout wins nods from expert panel and public vote

Strollout has been announced as the Macquarie dictionary’s word of the year for 2021.

The Australian people have spoken and their opinion – for only the second time – is the same as the experts, with the colloquial noun “referring to the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination program in Australia, with reference to the perceived lack of speed” taking both the people’s choice award and the judging committee’s selection.

The committee noted on Tuesday the dual level on which strollout functioned. “At one level it’s got a transparency and a play on words, but at that deeper level, when you think about the significance of it … it’s a really important marker for this time in Australia’s history,” it said.

Related: Macquarie Dictionary celebrates 40 years of ‘unashamedly’ Australian English

The dictionary’s managing editor, Victoria Morgan, said: “Strollout really just shows the people’s dissatisfaction with the vaccine rollout. Maybe this was a way for the public to have their say about it.”

Strollout beat other terms including brain tickler, dump cake, sober curious, wokescold, dry scooping and hate follow in a shortlist heavily influenced by Covid.

Honourable mentions went to menty-b – that’s a colloquial term for a breakdown in one’s mental health – Delta, which surely needs no explanation at this point, and last chance tourism, which refers to tourism to locations with endangered landscapes or geological features or which are habitats for endangered species.

“This one was in the environment category,” Morgan said of the latter. “Unfortunately it’s coming down to this now, whether from climate change or population growth, the term is really saying, ‘If you want to see this place or this feature, go now because it’s not going to be there soon.’

“It’s a catch-22 because often increasing tourism for these places accelerates their demise. And it’s an odd one to have on a list in a year where we couldn’t go anywhere.”

The shortlist as a whole had a slightly depressing tone to it, said Morgan, which was a reflection on where we were as a society. “But these are the concepts taking up our attention, so maybe it’s time to do something about some of them.”

The committee saw the popularity of the term menty-b as a broadly positive phenomenon.

“It is an Australian coinage and while we love making light of more serious things, in a way it’s shown that talking about mental health is a lot more acceptable now – most of the instances we’ve seen of menty-b is people using it about themselves, opening up conversation in a more natural way than previously,” Morgan said.

Last year’s word of the year was also somewhat Covid-related, with “doomscrolling” taking out the top position, referring to the favoured national past-time of endlessly scrolling through social media feeds filled with bad news.

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