MOST Brits would agree it’s been a hideous year – from job losses and cancelled celebrations to a seemingly bottomless black hole of Covid lockdown restrictions.
Yet while 2020 has seen plenty of devastation, it’s also sparked a host of quirky new phrases which we’ve collectively turned to in a bid to explain our strange situation.
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The year 2020 has sparked a host of quirky new phrases
Words once confined to dialogue in disaster movies are now part of our daily conversations – from ‘pandemic’ and ‘doomscrolling’ to the terror-inducing phrase ‘mutant’.
And for many of us, these conversations have themselves moved from pubs, restaurants and workplaces to digital platforms – some of which we hadn’t even heard of in 2019.
Here, as the nation – and world – prepares to ring in a new year, we look back at some of the phrases nobody wanted to use every single day of 2020, but we have anyway:
Doomscrolling has cropped up in countless Word of the Year listsCredit: AFP or licensors
We’ve all doomscrolled at some point or other in 2020.
Doomscrolling is the act of continually reading a stream of negative news stories until you’re left a traumatised, quivering mess.
It’s small wonder the gloomy term has cropped up in countless Word of the Year lists, as one horrendous coronavirus-related revelation after another keeps us all glued to our phones.
Perhaps we’d have been less inclined to doomscroll if there was anything else to do.
Loose Women star Stacey Solomon poses at home in JulyCredit: Instagram
Speaking of having nothing to do, the regularity of staying indoors with no plans has led some people to experience a weird shift in the perception of time.
In 2020, Wednesday and Saturday might as well be the same thing.
There’s even a new word to describe the phenomenon of weeks blurring together: “Blursday”.
‘Do you want a pint – and a table?’
Getting a pint these days is like planning a military operationCredit: Alamy Live News
Going to the pub with your mates used to be an escape from work.
But in this year of kaleidoscopic rule changes and social distancing, getting a pint is no longer a simple matter of walking into a pub and asking for one, but more like planning a military operation.
We’ve had to navigate shoddy booking sites, 10pm curfews, and having more table-order apps installed on our phones than anyone ever wanted.
‘Are we elbow bumping?’
PM Boris Johnson has been spotted giving careful elbow bumps, in line with social distancing guidelines, during the pandemicCredit: Paul Tonge – The Sun
Back in the early days of the pandemic, we were all trapped between two opposing forms of politeness.
When greeting someone, was it right to shake someone’s hand, as has been customary for thousands of years?
Or was it better to offer a slightly cringey elbow bump in order to try and avoid the transmission of a deadly disease?
Many an awkward interaction followed but, during lockdowns at least, the government sorted the problem for us by stopping us seeing anyone anyway.
‘Better get some loo roll in‘
Toilet paper stocks have been a surprising casualty of the pandemicCredit: Nick Obank – The Sun
When panic-buying first hit back in March, every hoarder in the country set about making sure they had so much loo roll in their house that, if they wanted to, they could use it to redecorate their living room.
Toilet paper stocks were a surprising casualty of the pandemic along with reasonably priced dogs, which vanished thanks to the frenzy of everybody wanting a canine companion for their daily hour of legal exercise.
Flour and yeast were also hungrily swallowed up by an overnight national appetite for home-baking that exploded early in the first lockdown.
Now that panic-buying has made a winter comeback, it’s anyone’s guess which product will vanish from the shelves next.
‘There goes another 5G mast‘
Scores of 5G phone masts across the UK have been burned or vandalisedCredit: EPA
This year has been an absolute gift for conspiracy theorists who have found themselves less worried about whether the moon landing was faked and more worried about Bill Gates allegedly trying to chip our brains via Covid vaccines.
The coronavirus has thrown up a whole host of wacky ideas from the tin-foil-hat brigade, including that the virus itself is a manmade biological weapon.
But arguably the crankiest of all the theories is the one linking the pandemic with 5G phone networks.
Enough people took the drivel seriously enough to burn or vandalise scores of 5G phone masts across the UK, and engineers working on them have even been attacked.
‘Keys, wallet, phone, MASK’
Medical professionals haven’t been the only ones wearing masks this year Credit: AP:Associated Press
The age-old mental checklist before leaving the house used to go: “Keys, wallet, phone.”
But this year, we’ve also had to make sure we have a mask on us at all times too.
Is there anything worse than queuing up in the cold at your supermarket’s newly-installed traffic light system, only to find that when you get to the door you’re going to have to turn around and walk away past dozens of other people who now know you’re the sort of person who fails to prepare?
Forgetting your mask, or deliberately choosing not to wear one where you’re supposed to, is the textbook example of covidiocy (see below).
Piers Morgan dons a mask as he prepares to play a shot in the Paddy Power Pro-Am Golf Shootout in St Albans, Hertfordshire, in JuneCredit: Getty Images – Getty
An editor-pleasing portmanteau of the words “Covid” and “idiot”, the term “covidiot” has been used to describe those who’ve flagrantly ignored public health guidance and social-distancing measures this year.
That’s included some fairly spectacular celeb transgressions, including from former-rule-stickler-in-chief Piers Morgan.
The Good Morning Britain firebrand was photographed not wearing a mask earlier this month while sitting in the back of a taxi with his wife Celia.
“I’m guilty as charged,” 55-year-old Piers tweeted after the picture was published.
“For a few seconds, I was a Covidiot & I deserve the full wrath of Twitter hell to now descend on me.”
‘Can I borrow your Netflix login?‘
Streaming giants like Netflix have come through with some truly memorable series in 2020Credit: Alamy
Hollywood studios might have held back their big releases slated for 2020 until next year, but streaming giants have come through with some truly memorable series in 2020.
The world was rapt by the unending twists of Tiger King in March before Michael Jordan’s slam dunk The Last Dance came online in April.
Not only has there never been more great TV to watch, but there’s never been so much time to watch it in.
‘I have NOTHING to look forward to‘
Many Brits have been forced to cancel holidays this year. Above, actress Jacqueline Jossa is pictured in her sunny garden during the first lockdownCredit: Instagram
Flights grounded. Hotel doors shut. And an endpoint that seems to continually recede further into the future.
Thanks to this, many people have been left unable to make plans that they can look forward to.
Others have cancelled holidays, weddings and more or less anything fun traditionally involving the consumption of alcohol.
And who isn’t sick of Zoom parties yet?
‘In these strange times‘
A man walks down the quiet high street in Cardiff, Wales, earlier this monthCredit: Getty Images – Getty
A famous apocryphal Chinese curse goes: “May you live in interesting times”.
The idea is that while boring uneventful years might seem like a bad thing, interesting ones like 2020 are actually much more horrible to live through.
And it seems like we’ve all collectively recognised this fact by referring to our daily experiences as “these strange times” in email greetings, small-talk, and just about every other conversational format.
‘I might try one of those Joe Wicks workouts…’
Two children take part in ‘PE with Joe’, a daily live workout with Joe Wicks on Youtube to help kids stay fit during the Covid lockdownCredit: PA:Press Association
There were two paths you could go down during lockdown.
One was to give in to snacking, mid-week drinking, and an all-round sense of sloth that seemed to accompany everything being shut.
The other was to turn your living room into an aerobics studio and attempt to keep up with fitness fanatic Joe Wicks’s live-streamed workouts.
Nearly a million people tuned into his fitness classes at the same time back in March.
But that’s absolutely nothing compared to the number of people who said they were going to try one of his regimes but never did.
‘I need a haircut‘
Never before have so many men in Britain simultaneously opted to take on the appearance of lower league footballers with man buns, top-knots and Alice bands appearing on barnets all over the country.
The other temptation, with barbers closed, was to take the plunge and shave it all off yourself at home.
“How to cut your own hair” was even one of the most Googled questions in the UK this year, behind asking how to make your own mask and even hand sanitiser.
But for those of us reluctant to reveal our strange-shaped skulls, the best strategy was just to spend most of 2020 looking like we’d been trapped in Jumanji for years instead.
‘You’re on mute‘
The Duchess of Cambridge has been video-calling colleagues, loved ones and others like the rest of us this yearCredit: Splash News
This is the classic Zoom complaint which, before this year, isn’t something most of us have had to worry about.
But now, talking on a video call without realising your microphone is switched off is a faux pas that even the Prime Minister has fallen foul of.
“Have you pressed the mute button by mistake?” the Speaker of the House of Commons asked Boris Johnson as audio of his videolink address to the chamber cut off mid-sentence last month.
“It is not our end, Prime Minister; it could well be yours,” the Hansard entry of the exchange reads.
But the more embarrassing faux pas have come from the opposite problem – talking out loud while incorrectly believing your mic is off.
Welsh politician Vaughan Gething was an early trailblazer for the gaffe, audibly saying “what the f*** is the matter with her?” about a colleague during a virtual Welsh Assembly session on Zoom.
Gething apologised for the sweary slip up.
Just when we thought the pandemic couldn’t get any worse, authorities revealed an aggressive “mutant” strain of the virus had been detected.
Usually the concern of low-budget horror films and teenage ninja turtles, it looks like we’re going to be talking about mutants for a while thanks to the new strain’s rapid spread to every region of the UK.
While the word might conjure connotations of the flesh-eating undead, the word actually just means “changing” in Latin.
It applies in the context of the pandemic because the virus has “changed” or “mutated” into a new strain.
‘Herd immunity’ refers to a situation in which most people in a given population are immune to an infectious diseaseCredit: PA:Press Association
This is another technical term that’s made its way into unsuspecting group chats the world over this year.
Also known as “population immunity”, “herd immunity” refers to a situation in which most people in a given population are immune to an infectious disease, typically because they’ve already had the disease or they’ve been vaccinated against it.
So if 80 per cent of a given population are immune to a disease, four out of five people who come into contact with it won’t get sick and won’t spread it any further.
Hence, the rest of the population or “herd” are indirectly protected too.
It’s definitely a useful phrase – as long as you don’t mind being compared to cattle.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, pictured with son Archie, have wasted no time in making a king’s ransom of their own overseasCredit: AP:Associated Press
In simpler times – last January – everybody was up in arms about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announcing they were going to “step back as ‘senior’ members” of the royal family.
Their decision to throw off the shackles of nobility in favour of sunkissed California superstardom was dubbed “Megxit”, an uncomfortable cross of the word “Meghan” and “exit”.
Implied by the awkward term is an equivalence with Brexit in the sense of both events involve a member of a group making a historic decision to leave that group.
Since their fateful declaration of independence was announced on Instagram 11 months ago, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have wasted no time in making a king’s ransom of their own with their newfound freedom.
They bagged a podcast deal with Spotify, thought to be worth around £30million, after signing up to a development contract with Netflix which could see them make £112million.
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The less said about this one the better.
This is a more lighthearted description of members of someone’s social bubble or “quarantine team”.
But ultimately, there’s no Tier in which the use of this word should be permitted. Ever.
Three-quarters of England in Tier 4 including all of North East and huge parts of Midlands and South West