Word-of-the-year is a tight race

In January, what did you think the word- or phrase-of-the-year would be at your favourite dictionary? I would have gone with “cognitive decline”. By now though, there are many contenders ranging from new ones like “social distancing” and “bubbling up” to old standbys like “racism” and “social inequality”. The Guardian lays its money on “bubble” and/or “shagbubble”, which is something I think single people are doing? Seems smart.

What would your best guess be on the word-of-the-year? I mean, assuming the year ended now. Because, the way things are going, by December we could see “alien invasion” and “spontaneous human combustion” as new contenders.

The word “bubble” is onomatopoeic, imitating the sound of bubbling liquid. (William Caxton, in his translation of a medieval French encyclopedia, describes the existence of wells that “spryng up with grete bobles” if you play a harp over them.) 

Metaphorically, though, bubbles have historically not been good. A bubble could be anything insubstantial or worthless (Shakespeare: “the bubble Reputation”), a fraudulent enterprise, or a ruinous financial inflation, as in the notorious South Sea Bubble, which led to the Bubble Act of 1720. 

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