We were first to include you! In 2018, Wordsmyth launched the first participatory Word of the Year (WOTY) process. There are a number of organizations that announce WOTY selections each year — including most of the major dictionaries of English. Different criteria are used to select a WOTY, depending on the internal deliberations of the organization. The Wordsmyth process is different. We want to involve our users in the WOTY process each year. And we want to make the discussion of WOTY candidates an interesting and educational process.
Everyone can participate — students and teachers, friendship and work groups, and families can all take up the discussion of what words have been most important in 2020. Sometimes these may be definitional discussions – when the changing meanings of a word become significant. For example, among this year’s nominations is the word “racism,” whose meaning garnered much attention this year. Or there may be significant importance in the discussion of which word to use in discussing some part of our society and culture. For example, some states with conservative constituencies who are skeptical of “climate change” have been searching for other terms to use in applying for financial relief from the damage from recent storms.
Our 10 nominations! This year we are launching our participatory WOTY selection process by presenting our nomination of 10 words that have been significant in this most unusual and challenging year. Some of these words have been noted already in our “About these words” blog posts. (See “contact tracing” and “essential worker”) We have nominated words with attention to four criteria:
- The word is significant in important events or movements, raising important questions about our cultural values and beliefs.
- The meanings or uses of the word have been discussed in various cultural media, fostering public awareness of the importance of the word and its uses.
- The word is open to multiple interpretations, inviting dialogues about their meanings.
- The questions raised are of interest and value in the pursuit of lifelong education.
If you are a teacher, we would like to provide some activities to get your students excited about picking a Word of the Year.