And the word of 2022 is… – The Economist

by | Dec 14, 2022 | Financial

THE STORY of a year is sometimes easy to identify: the financial crisis of 2008, the Brexit-Trump populist wave of 2016 or the pandemic of 2020. The most wrenching event of 2022 has been the war in Ukraine, yet those earlier stories have lingered in the headlines. For language-watchers, all that meant much new vocabulary to consider. Listen to this story. Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Your browser does not support the element.Listen to this storySave time by listening to our audio articles as you multitaskOKRussia’s invasion of Ukraine obliged newsreaders to practise place-names from Kharkiv to Zaporizhia. It also introduced weapons previously known only to experts: MANPADS, NASAMS, HIMARS and the like. (Soldiers have long had a flair for acronyms, not just the official kind but in contributions like fubar and snafu.) A debate also developed about whether it is culturally or militarily appropriate to refer to kamikaze or suicide drones, drones being by definition pilotless. Loitering munitions lacks a certain snap.The economic problems to which the war contributed brought new words too. The catchiest in that subcategory is shrinkflation, whereby companies hide price increases by downsizing products while keeping price tags unchanged. It is a perfect portmanteau (a word built from parts of others). It not only points to an important thing, but its component parts are transparent so that it requires little explanation. No wonder Shaquille O’Neal, a retired American basketball star, used it in a pizza advertisement—a measure of success, perhaps.Business, economics and finance are perennial sources of new jargon, some bits more enduring than others. The slowdown of China’s economy led to increased talk of decoupling (of Western businesses from China’s). International frictions led to a boom in friendshoring: a kind of reverse offshoring in which supply chains are redirected to stable, ideally allied countries, rather than those invading their neighbours or pursuing self-harming covid policies.Focusing on China, zero covid might be the obvious word of this year. China’s lockdowns and crackdowns provoked rare public protests in big cities, and forced an unusual and public retreat from some elements of the policy late in the year. In Chinese the authorities called their policy dongtai qingling, meaning “dynamic clearing to zero”; that sounds rather more heroic than locking millions of people into their homes.Climate change also contributed vocabulary in 2022, a year of extreme weather and eco-anxiety. A torrid summer saw governments set up public cooling centres. Come the winter, s …

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