With the New Year upon us, we surveyed the Source Defense team for a spin on the traditional New Year/New Beginning Posts. There were so many submissions – with ones now adopted into our everyday vocabulary, and ones children most likely wouldn’t have learned until they were taking their SAT Prep classes. They are words that isolated us, yet brought the world together as individuals experienced them.
The Merriam-Webster Word of the Year. According to Merriam-Webster, “On March 11th, the World Health Organization officially declared “that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” and this is the day pandemic saw the single largest spike in dictionary traffic in 2020, showing an increase of 115,806% over lookups on that day in 2019.”
From ruining personal plans, setting back businesses, halting the world as we know it – this word changed the course of history like never before, and we for one would be happy to never hear it again.
Historically, the oldest word on our list, yet one of the most used. Quarantine brings along not only requirements and regulations, but troubling emotions stemming from isolation. It served as the best excuse for people getting out of unwanted gatherings and further extending time out of the office. Out of quarantine we were introduced to other new scenarios: self-quarantine, school pods, color groups defining when people could go into the office – and the ever changing regulations of what was an acceptable quarantine time length. The only bright spot to a word that brought sadness to so many is thankfully it did not live up to the history of it’s etymology; 40 days would have felt like a lifetime compared to the 10-14 many of us experienced.
From essential workers, to essential businesses, to essential travel. Never was a word treated with such positive and negative connotations. The world quickly prioritized the people, environments, products (toilet paper!) that were essential to them during the pandemic. Thankfully, those deemed essential are now the first to receive the vaccine leaving this word to end on a much needed high note.
The word that made us realize how many things we truly missed in the world. A word traditionally used for prisoners or security measures. The simple conveniences of casual grocery shopping, sitting at a crowded bar, having children in predictable childcare programs or school. The lockdown brought about so many rules and regulations that uprooted humans around the world, caused travel to halt and changed the course of history.
Not a surprise to anyone in the States, but unique to our company having a dual headquarters location, it just happened to be a hot topic in Israel as well. An unplanned upcoming Israeli election was all the talk (and frustration) that frequently made the US headlines and made for unique once in a lifetime (hopefully!) office water cooler talk.
To be fair, Zoom used as a verb is a very common thing in the tech world. As early adopters Zoom was a way of life. However, never did we think we would experience Zoom happy hours or the cultural phenomena that arose from the phrases “You’re on mute”, “Are you aware you are sharing your screen?” or the crowd favorite “Are you aware that your camera is on?”. Needless to say we know this word isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s up there with “Just Google it” or “I’ll Slack you” solidifying their brand beyond the tech world reaching elementary school students to eldery grandparents. As a company with so many remote employees, Zoom is our office, the place we can have fun, hold important conversations, learn about our teammates and grow as a business. So, maybe this one hits us because this word single handedly morphed our work life to our personal life. We have no problem with our work Zooms, but when your Great Aunt or extended cousin wants to Zoom with you for the 6th time that week, you need to institute some work-life balances.
7. Social Distancing
We never thought we’d miss shared cubicles, crowded spaces and crowded forms of transportations. Social distancing was used to the point of comedic relief with ways to ensure the measures were upheld. Before things got too bad, we spent many meetings measuring out chairs for management meetings, or employee town halls to ensure our team felt secure with our social distancing strategy. The one water cooler question remains how long the world will accept the signs, dividers and mapped out areas and respect them – and what will happen first people ignoring them or them being removed.
8. Budget Freeze
The worst phrase you can tell a sales rep. 88% of businesses adapted to a virtual model in 2020 of some kind and business was NOT as usual for quite some time as people adjusted to the New Normal [see below]. Even if budgets weren’t frozen – it was the perfect excuse to get people out of hesitant expenses, or delay decisions causing much disdain to many businesses across the world.
9. New Normal
The last time this word was regularly used was in 2008 and the years that followed with the financial crisis and resulting global recession. Economists argue the world will always revert back to growth-trends after such setbacks. However, most were not prepared for the daily pleasures that would be looked at differently as a result of the Covid-19 virus. From cordial handshakes at business meetings to blowing out birthday candles, the new normal impacted people way deeper than just financially. This word will probably be the first to fade from use this year as more people get accustomed to their changed life, and hope it does not return for quite some time [but as history has taught us, we know at some point it will return for another new new normal].
10. Stay Safe
Oh, how we took for granted the friendly salutations of Cheers or Many Thanks! Observing the sensitive nature of so many people being personally affected by the pandemic gave people pause to ensure they were being thoughtful and respectful in any and all communication efforts. Fittingly, we saved this one for last as although we are tired of it, we respect it, and truly mean it when we say or write it.
Hindsight is officially 2020.
As we look forward to a fresh calendar, we remind one another this new year brings a fresh start. As T.S. Eliot put it, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.” Cheers to a year of positive, empowering and healing words. May we use them well, appreciate them as they come and remember to not take them for granted.