The Collins dictionary has just announced its words of the year for 2022! For language geeks like me, the anticipation of this moment is akin to a kid on Christmas Eve. These words are a reflection of the big themes and events that have happened. They encapsulate the mood of the year and help us describe the lives we are living more precisely.

Previous winners include ‘Brexit’ in 2016, ‘Fake news’ in 2017 and ‘NFT’ in 2021.

This year’s collection of words tells us so much about what life looks and feels like in 2022. I’ve picked out a couple I thought you might like plus the full list.

permacrisis (noun) /ˈpɜːməkraɪsɪs/

Meaning: an extended period of instability and insecurity, esp one resulting from a series of catastrophic events.

I don’t think there is a word that embodies the UK in 2022 better than permacrisis. One economic downturn, two monarchs, three Prime ministers…I think that constitutes a permacrisis. Of course, we are not alone in living through a permacrisis. I’m sure you can think of your own examples. At the time of writing, Elon Musk and Twitter seem to be going through their own permacrisis.

sportswashing (noun) /ˈspɔːtswɒʃɪŋ/

Meaning: the sponsorship or promotion of sporting events in order to enhance a tarnished reputation or distract attention from a controversial activity.

In 2010, Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup. It was a controversial decision and one that has been plagued with accusations of corruption. It has also been used as an example of ‘sportswashing’; the practice of using a sporting event to distract from controversial activities. I’m a huge football fan and the English Premier League is no stranger to this. It’s believed that sportwashing is used by club owners to enhance their reputation on a global scale.

This practice isn’t just confined to football. It happens in other sports and is perpetrated by other countries and companies. It truly is a word for our times.

partygate (noun) /ˈpɑːtɪˌɡeɪt/

Meaning: a political scandal over social gatherings held in British government offices during 2020 and 2021 in defiance of the public-health restrictions that prevailed at the time.

A truly British word, ‘partygate’ was a scandal that rocked this country during covid-19. What I’m most interested in however, is the suffix -gate which is used to describe a political scandal. The etymology goes back to an American political scandal in the 1970s called Watergate which saw President Nixon resign. Ever since then, the suffix -gate has been applied to scandals to give them names the press can use to describe them. In this example, there were illegal parties held by government officials so we get ‘partygate’. In another example, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was hit by a piece of pizza from an opposition player during a fight and so it was called ‘pizzagate’.

Here is a list on wikipedia of all the ‘-gate’ scandals.

I made a video on the full list that you can watch here:

The full list:

warm bank (noun) /ˈwɔːm ˌbæŋk/

Meaning: a heated building where people who cannot afford to heat their own homes may go.

carolean (adjective) /kærəˈliːən/

Meaning: of or relating to Charles III of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or his reign.

lawfare (noun) /ˈlɔːˌfɛə/

Meaning: the strategic use of legal proceedings to intimidate or hinder an opponent.

quiet quitting (noun) /kwaɪət ˈkwɪtɪŋ/

Meaning: the practice of doing little or no work while being present at one’s place of employment.

vibe shift (noun) /ˈvaɪbˌʃɪft/

Meaning: a significant change in a prevailing cultural atmosphere or trend.

splooting (noun) /ˈspluːtɪŋ/

Meaning: the act of lying flat on the stomach with the legs stretched out.

Kyiv (noun) /ˈkiːɪf/

Meaning: the capital of Ukraine.

Thanks for reading and please share this article with anyone you know learning English.

Hugs from London,

Teacher Tom