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New Words from 2020

A glossary of words that this strange year threw up

2020 glossary, words of 2020, pandemic words, eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express newsIllustration by Suvajit Dey

For a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been full of words. A few have expectedly, been dangerous to health. A word like “unprecedented”, for instance, has single-handedly converted us into a nation with very poor liver health. It has been rigorously proven by an unscientific study that if a person took a sip of a drink every time they read or heard the word “unprecedented” this year, their liver would be shot to hell by now.

Back in 2016, President Donald Trump had famously boasted, “I know words. I have the best words.” But sadly, in this, as in other things, 2020 had him beat. So, as a public service to future historians, here is the dictionary of 2020 — all the words of the year, defined as they are really used, in one pithy, inaccurate volume:

2020 (verb): When you bugger things up beyond belief. E.g. Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin 2020’d his career after he accidentally exposed himself on a Zoom work call. (PS: This is a true story. 2020 is a fabulous year for stories of 2020-ing)

Coronacoaster (noun): The ups and downs of your mood during the pandemic. E.g. If you’re loving lockdown one minute — baking bread and happy as a bug — and the next minute, you are missing the office coffee, drinking vodka at noon and weepy with anxiety, you’re on an emotional coronacoaster

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Coronials (n): Babies produced after a year of lockdown. E.g: Coronials are the product of the fact that while social distancing was mandated outside, the impact in the bedroom was quite the opposite

Covidiot (n): A person with their brains in their bum when it comes to COVID-19 safety. E.g. Medical tests have proven that sadly for the rest of us, no covidiot is asymptomatic

Fitness/ workout (n): Thirty minutes of getting your heart rate up followed by 23.5 hours spent in the same position. E.g. It’s been important to keep up with one’s routine during quarantine. So, right through the year, I continued to not work out, just like before


Handwashing (v): The No.1 gap-year activity in most CVs in 2020. E.g. Future generations will be shocked to learn that the “Happy birthday” song used to actually be sung at birthdays and not just to time handwashing

Lockdown (n): A period of complete restrictions when everyone’s true hair colour was revealed. E.g. Lockdown was what was needed for a whole bunch of people to learn that “sufficient time home alone” was not the only thing needed to write a great novel

Locktail Hour (phrase): Beer o’clock in the lockdown era. E.g. Is it just me or has locktail hour started creeping earlier with each passing week?


Mid-morning coffee (n): (also known as mid-afternoon coffee) An amazing drink except with tequila, lime juice, triple sec and no coffee. E.g. Let me get my mid-morning coffee, the ideas will really begin to flow when I have that in my system

Moronavirus (n): What covidiots test positive for. E.g. Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, etc

New normal (phrase): What stinks for everyone. E.g. The new normal for this year is to continually get used to a new but much worse normal

Social Distancing (phrase): (also referred to as anti-social distancing) Using lockdown as the perfect reason to avoid everyone you don’t like. E.g. Introverts are desperate for social-distancing rules to be lifted so everyone they live with will leave the house

The Covid-19 (phrase): Refers to the 19 pounds an average person put on during this pandemic from stress-eating. E.g. Remember when everyone used to say the key to losing weight was eating more of your meals at home? The Covid 19 hadn’t struck then!


The elephant in the Zoom (phrase): The glaring issue during a videoconferencing call that everybody feels unable to mention. E.g. I did this afternoon’s meeting in a towel as nothing fits me any more. But I relied on it being the elephant in the Zoom

Toddlers (n): The fruit of your own loins with whom you played hide and seek all through the lockdown, even if they didn’t realise it. E.g. Send help to the parents, rumour has it the toddlers are winning hands down


Vaccine (n): Hope in a syringe. E.g. The vaccine should first be tested on politicians. If they are okay, the vaccine is safe, but if they aren’t, the country is safe

Work from home (Wfh) (phrase): Wearing pyjamas to snack, clean, cook, snack, answer emails, attend calls, snack, etc. E.g. For most right-thinking people, work interferes with the full enjoyment of WFH


You’re on mute! (phrase): The most used words in 2020. E.g. YOU’RE ON MUTE!

Zoom (n): The app you use to prove to your boss that you’ve managed to get out of bed. E.g. Has anyone else forgotten they are on a Zoom meeting with the video on and inadvertently started plucking lint out of their belly button? If not, then me neither

The end (phrase): Not here by any means but hopefully close. E.g. It’s the end of 2020! Things can’t possibly get any worse next year, so they can only get better!

This unprecedented dictionary for unprecedented times is available on order in a classy leatherite bound volume. You can invest in this for the coronials in your life. Meanwhile, Happy 2021. Stay safe, stay healthy and remember — keep the mid-morning coffee close at hand. You never know what the New Year has in store!

(Vatsala Mamgain is a glutton, cook, runner, tree lover, shopper and reader)

First published on: 27-12-2020 at 06:45 IST
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