It’s that time of the year again—when dictionaries around the world start announcing their chosen ‘Word of the Year’. First cab off the rank is the big one—the Oxford English Dictionary. The Oxford lexicographers last year refused to give us just one word of the year, insisted the year had been so strange it needed a long list to cover it. But this year they have settled on a simple, one syllable word—vax. Mind you they’ve also noted all the variations and constructions this simple lexeme has generated: with double-vaxxed, unvaxxed and anti-vaxxer all seeing a surge in use. And there are some slightly odd combinations that have also turned up, such as vaxxie—the selfie you take while being given your shot. I can’t imagine doing this, but I guess if you belong to the Instagram generation it makes (some sort of) sense. And there’s also vaxinista—meaning someone who is such a vehement vaccination campaigner they will be rude to the unvaxxed. The abbreviation vax has been around since the 1980s but was rare until now. It has only peaked (in fact exploded) in use this year. By the way, did you know that the word it shortens, vaccinate, comes from the Latin for cow? That’s because the first immunisations consisted of giving children cowpox to protect them from smallpox—and needing a word for this new medical procedure they fastened on the bovine that was being so helpful.
That strange young Viking Greta Thunberg has made ‘blah, blah, blah’ her slogan. Her intention is to describe the world’s politicians making empty promises about climate change. That slogan has been then (unwisely, I think) employed on the platform at Glasgow by Boris Johnson. The Oxford English Dictionary defines blah as ‘meaningless, insincere, or pretentious talk or writing; nonsense, bunkum’. The word is first recorded in 1918, and was originally an American colloquialism. The suggestion is that people talking blah are just making noises. They are just uttering nonsense syllables along the lines of ‘bar-bar-bar’, just like pre-verbal infants. Interestingly, the ancient Greeks had exactly the same idea. Being unable to understand the languages of non-Greeks they labelled them ‘barbarians’—meaning their words were a nonsense babble of ‘bar-bar-bar’. Greta Thunberg is now 18 years old, has no academic qualifications and is (apparently) using her vast wisdom to deride world leaders as the barbarians outside the gates. It would be much better for her to show a little respect, and for the manipulative greenies of this world to stop exploiting a clearly confused and vulnerable young woman.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10