'Single-use' beats 'MeToo' to Collins' Word of the Year

'Single-use' beats 'MeToo' to Collins' Word of the Year

‘Single-use’ has been crowned Collins’ Word of the Year 2018 with ‘MeToo’ and ‘gaslighting' also making the list of new additions to the dictionary.

The term which refers to products, often plastic, that are ‘made to be used once only’ before disposal has seen a four-fold increase since 2013, with news stories and images such as those seen in the BBC’s "Blue Planet II" raising public awareness of the issue, according to HarperCollins.

While ‘single-use’ has taken the top spot as Collins’ Word of the Year 2018, other words of the year from Collins include ‘plogging’, a Scandinavian fitness craze that couples jogging with picking up litter, and ‘Vegan’, as the lifestyle choice has become increasingly mainstream in recent years.

Sexual politics also dominates the dictionary's additions. The global campaign against predatory sexual behaviour, #MeToo, has made the list with The Collins database revealing it has transcended its social media hashtag to be seen in phrases such as ‘the MeToo era’ and ‘MeToo moment’. First noted in late 2017, the term has "become ubiquitous in 2018", HarperCollins said. ‘Gaslight’, to manipulate others, often romantic partners, by leading them to question their sanity, has seen a 20-fold increase over the last five years and is also included.

Meanwhile exposure through online and public protest about film and television casting decisions where white actors are cast to play characters from minority ethnic groups has led to the inclusion of ‘whitewash’.

'Brexit', which was crowned Collins’ Word of the Year in 2016, has inspired two words in this year’s list: ‘backstop’ and ‘gammon’. ‘Backstop’, meaning a system that may be used if no other arrangement is made, appears due to its ubiquity in recent Brexit-negotiations reporting, while the derogatory term ‘gammon’ has gained popularity as a term of abuse directed at the most reactionary pro-Brexit supporters.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup scores an entry for the acronym ‘VAR’, meaning video assistant referee, a technology previously seen in other sports that was widely used and often controversial in matches throughout the tournament.

Finally, the successful online, last-man-standing video game “Fortnite" has led to the inclusion of ‘floss’, referring to a victory dance performed by the winning gamer’s avatar. 

Collins Dictionary’s lexicographers monitor the 4.5 billion-word Collins Corpus - a database of English of more than 4.5 billion words featuring material from websites, newspapers, magazines and books published around the world, as well as spoken material from radio, TV and everyday conversations. "They create the annual list of new and notable words that reflect an ever-evolving culture and the preoccupations of those who use it," HarperCollins said.

Helen Newstead, head of language content at Collins, said: "This has been a year where awareness and often anger over a variety of issues has led to the rise of new words and the revitalisation and adaptation of old ones. It’s clear from this year’s Words of the Year list that changes to our language are dictated as much by public concern as they are by sport, politics, and playground fads."

She added: "The words in this year’s list perhaps highlight a world at extremes – at one end, serious social and political concerns, and at the other, more light-hearted activities. All, however, contribute to the ever-evolving English language and will take their place on CollinsDictionary.com, and will be considered for future print editions."