As we usher out the old to bring in the new and say a not-so-fond farewell to 2021, there are a few words that I’ll be hoping we can leave behind as we head into the new year.
Woke: Aaaand at number one! There’s been fierce competition for the coveted top spot this year but the tiresome term “woke” has snatched the crown, with it now very far away from its original context. It has become a calling card for sneering types who feel like their entitlement is under threat by people who feel that their voice should also be heard. It is often used in conjunction with “snowflake” and “cancel” (see below). The words are brandished as insults, intended to undermine those protesting, questioning or defying accepted power relations. This year, people wanting to boost a fledgling or flagging media career being cancelled by “woke snowflakes” was on-trend.
Cancel culture: Cancellation is just a nebulous term meaning someone disagrees with you. Alternatively – imagine this – you might actually have said something appalling that’s rightly being called out. It sounds dramatic, like you’ve been deleted from the universe. In 2021, everything was up for cancellation, including celebrities or even statues, side hair partings and skinny jeans. Being a victim of cancel culture usually means you are able to complain loudly and to large audiences that you have been silenced.
Snowflake: Snowflake is a contradictory term. Those described as snowflakes are supposed to be fragile and prone to meltdown but they’re also deeply threatening to power structures and freedom of speech. The danger of snowflakes lies in their feebleness and supposed inability to withstand even the most minor of insults. It can’t possibly be anything to do with (mainly) old white blokes horrified that they might not be able to opine loudly without interruption anymore.
Boris: For the love of all that is good, let’s stop calling our prime minister “Boris” as if he’s our mate. He isn’t. Calling him Boris makes him and his often appalling behaviour seem benign. Good old Boris! He’s a bit of a joker, our Boris! We need to stop talking about him as if he’s a wayward but adored little brother. Boris Johnson is the head of our government – even if he doesn't always act like it.
Variant: I doubt I’m going to get my wish on this one but wouldn’t it be bloody fabulous if we could get through 2022 without hearing the word “variant”? Mostly because it would sound like the end of the Covid-19 pandemic was near. Delta and Omicron were enough.
Lockdown: Obviously, locking down has been important in stopping the spread of Covid when needed. But the actual word? Need I say more? I think not.