The Australian National University has released its words of the year – and not surprisingly, it was inspired by a pandemic.
- The word for 2021 is “walk,” beating a shortlist that included the word “double-vaxxed.”
- Last year’s word big was also pandemic
- The Australian National Dictionary Center says COVID-19 has seen hundreds of new words and phrases
Strollout – a word that appeared in the first half of the year when critics of the introduction of vaccines by the federal government began to refer to the delays observed – has been crowned the latest language image for 2021.
Like last year’s choice of “big,” the new word reveals how profoundly the COVID-19 virus has shaped our culture.
But while “big” refers to the situation most of us faced for months at a time to avoid COVID-19 infection, the word this year may not be as well known.
Nevertheless, it is one that contains a bit of a sting.
Amanda Laugesen, director of the Australian National Dictionary Center at ANU, said that although other words had been in greater use, the word was of unique Australian origin.
“For many Australians, the pace [vaccine] implementation was considered too slow, “he said.
The prime minister stressed early on that the introduction of vaccines in Australia was not a “competitive race”, but many disagreed, arguing that the pace needed to be accelerated to save lives and restore society to normal as soon as possible.
In May, Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Trade Union Council (ACTU), received these frustrations.
“We don’t have a distribution of vaccines, we have a distribution of vaccines,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Care workers for the elderly and disabled have so far been meant to be vaccinated. They are not. It’s less than three weeks into the winter – where’s the hurry?”
After hearing about the strollout’s confessions today, Miss McManus gave all the credit to ACTU’s assistant secretary, Liam O’Brien – again via Twitter.
“‘Strollout’ is named the word of the year. It actually said that.” [Mr O’Brien] At an ACTU internal meeting, when we discussed our frustration with the Morrison government’s unhurried vaccination of the elderly, ”he said.
Strollout history and international appeal
“Strollout” refers to a debate that began as to whether Scott Morrison had done enough to secure millions of doses of Pfizer that would be in such huge demand later.
But while the word was spread on Twitter, Mr Morrison advocated the distribution of vaccines during Question Time, saying delivery decisions were made based on health advice.
“Department of Health Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy was the first to refer to ‘no race,'” Morrison said in early June.
“And I confirmed his remarks by the Minister of Health… because throughout this pandemic, one of the key factors for both our government and the governments of the country as a whole and the governments of other countries is that we have always been aware of expert advice based on the decisions we make.”
But the “walk” grabbed nonetheless.
By July, it had spread worldwide – the Washington Post used it and asked how only six per cent of Australians could be vaccinated when other countries were so far ahead. Under the heading reads the “Australian Vaccine” walk “shows the dangers of COVID. Complacency”.
The word also arose when decisions were made to send more doses to the communities most affected by COVID-19, particularly Sydney.
Dr Laugesen said the word of the year was “yet another example of how genuinely Australian expression can lift waves globally.”
“As the Delta strain of COVID-19 spread across Australia, the urgency of vaccinating the population became clear, and words such as vaccination centers, vaccine hesitation, vaccine passports, and double vaccination emerged,” Dr. Laugesen said.
The pandemic is a busy time
“Strollout” was not the only word born during the pandemic.
In fact, it has been a very fruitful time for those studying this.
“I think what’s really interesting about COVID is that it’s just been so productive in its own words,” Dr. Laugesen told ABC Radio Canberra.
There were other notable words on the favorites list that became common language during the year, including “AUKUS” and “net zero,” both of which show that the center did not hesitate to raise controversial issues.
Dr Laugesen said “double-vaxxed” had been a strong challenger to the top spot, in part because it had been used much more in Australia than in other countries, possibly with the exception of Canada.
But the word ultimately chosen raises an issue that may remain central to the national debate as the country prepares to vote.