Word of Year 2020 lists show connections between cultures of the world

By Chen Xi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/14 17:26:48

Medical staff nurse a COVID-19 patient in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, April 14, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

"People first, lives first," "pandemic," "quarantine," "face masks"… Without a doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the word of the year lists in every country in the world, which Chinese experts say is a rare example of a shared situation building a connection between every human being in the world. 

According to a Monday report from the Xinhua News Agency, "fighting the pandemic" is the most-searched-for word of the year in China, while many popular buzzwords of the year are related to the pandemic such as "epidemic prevention and control" and "resumption of work and production." 

For example, seven of the top 10 buzzwords of the year published by Chinese literature and art magazine YaoWen JiaoZi are directly or indirectly related to anti-epidemic efforts. The top buzzword is "People First, Lives First," which was selected as it represents the significant achievements that China has made during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the five major domestic buzzwords jointly selected by the Beijing Language and Culture University, the Commercial Press and other institutions, four words - "face masks," "anti-epidemic," "Heroes in harm's way" and "health code" - are pandemic-related.

Meanwhile, "US presidential election" and "Kobe" were among the words chosen for the list of the five major international buzzwords.

Zou Yu, a professor at the Communication University of China, said that the popularity of these buzzwords was due to the large number of people who use them, but not all words that appear frequently made it on the list.

"The buzzwords were selected from big data and related algorithms, and then experts discussed and chose the ones to include on the lists," said Zou.

The pandemic has been the most attention-getting event of 2020. Similar to China,   the word "pandemic" is the Word of the Year for both Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com in the US, and according to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word "quarantine" became the crown jewel for the UK.

In Japan, the word "sanmitsu" - known in English as the "Three Cs" of COVID-19 prevention, or avoiding "closed spaces, crowds and close-contact situations" - was one of the several words and phrases inspired by the virus to make it onto 2020's shortlist.

Yu Guoming, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication of Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that the buzzwords from the above countries reflect the different cultural values between the East and the West. 

"The phrase 'People First, Lives First' in China sounds more positive than the words 'pandemic' or 'quarantine' in the West, but they all convey the social consensus of all the human beings in the world, " said Yu.

He pointed that although these words might fade away as time goes by, they will become a kind of historical imprint and be recorded in people's memories. 

"It is very rare that the buzzwords of the year from different countries are the same, but this kind of rare similarity can connect the hearts of people all over the world and promote more exchanges and consensus," said Yu. 


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