The language we speak is closely linked to our beliefs and values. Because different groups of people have different beliefs and values, you often see that people clash over words. Humans have a tendency to “clean up” language, this process is what Professor Deborah Cameron describes as Verbal Hygiene:
“The discourses and practices through which people attempt to ‘clean up’ language and make its structure or its use conform more closely to their ideals of beauty, truth, efficiency, logic, correctness and civility.”
It can therefore be argued that language is a social construct. That’s why we at TrendsActive keep a close eye on words as an indicator of social or cultural changes in society. For example, by looking at the provider of language information, Merriam-Webster. They give updates on the most used words and contextualise where it comes from. Their tool Time Traveler for example, gives us an overview of the new events, discoveries and innovations per year. In 2020, it was the first time we used the words physically distance, post-COVID syndrome, and murder hornet in print. Sounds like a pretty terrible year, right? We’re curious to see what new words arise in 2021, hopefully something a little more cheery!