‘Lockdown’ trends as word of the year

Image: Hush Naidoo/Unsplash

The word “lockdown” has been proclaimed the 2020 South African Word of the Year by PanSalb, in association with media research company, Focal Points.

Lockdown was mentioned 486,224 times in print, broadcast, online and further mentions on social media and in everyday conversations — in just more than six months.

The word has captured the ethos and the mood of 2020, said PanSalb’s CEO Willie Manana.

He said there was no argument that the lockdown changed the way people lived and opened up a whole new world which made it possible to work at home.

Candidates for the SA Word of the Year were reviewed by PanSALB and their merits debated, but lockdown was chosen as one that captured the philosophy, mood, and preoccupations of the year.  

Focal Points tracked keywords which were then analysed.

Researchers tried to determine the prominence of the keywords, their frequency, and their cultural significance.

Two others which made the top three were Covid-19 and Jerusalema.

Words which just fell short of the shortlist were: corruption, normalise and self-Isolation.

The winner was announced on Friday to coincide with International Dictionary Day, which  PanSALB commemorated in Bloemfontein.

Lockdown started to hit the headlines with the declaration of the national state of disaster on March 15 and became the main headline on March 27 whenSA was plunged into the most severe Level 5 lockdown.

Manana said PanSALB said the winner had to be used increasingly over the year across all media.

“As the world faces a pandemic and a lot of uncertainty, the tenacity of the human spirit has never been more evident.

“Language has been at the centre of our response to the pandemic as words such as quarantine, pandemic and lockdown suddenly became part of our everyday vocabulary.”

International Dictionary Day, October 16, commemorates the first American lexicographer, Noah Webster, who is considered to be the pioneer  of the American dictionary.

PanSALB, through its national lexicography units, develops dictionaries in all official languages for the sustainable development of languages and the realisation of effective multilingualism in SA.

Manana said: “We can all attest to the rampage caused by the coronavirus, it is all that we have talked about as we continue to navigate through its unforgiving rage.

“Hence, in choosing this year’s SA Word of the Year, we have had to take the process a step further to broaden the criteria and also consider the cultural significance and influence the word has had amongst South Africans.”

“The lockdown affected various parts of our lives and continues to do so, how we conduct business, our social interactions and cultural practices.”


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