The Oxford English Dictionary is not anti-vax. In fact, they’ve chosen the three-letter term, VAX, as the 2021 Word of the Year.
Officials say it injected itself into the bloodstream of the English language more than any other over the past year.
“A nice short word that people are having fun with precisely because the pandemic can be so gloomy. Taking a picture as you get your vaccine, that was called a VAX-ie,” said Darin Flynn, a linguist from the University of Calgary.
While the multipurpose term has created many new words in 2021, VAX, and its root word vaccine, are not new to the lexicon.
“Been around since the 1980s, at least. The longer form vaccine has been around since the 1800s. So, it’s a beautiful reminder of the disgusting history of vaccines which has to do with cow pustules.”
But will this variation of VAX withstand the test of time? Other winning Oxford terms include omnishambles, bovvered and hypermiling.
“Selfie was added in 2013, but it’s still being used widely. But there have been some additions that have not gotten much attention,” explained Flynn.
Part of why “VAX” is the word of the year, is that the language has gone global — with regional dialect often giving way to uniformity.
“British people tend to talk about getting a shot when they get a vaccine, whereas Americans will use the word jab. But now British people are using the term jab because they’ve been consuming so much American content.”
Which pandemic words remain part of our daily use on the other side remains to be seen — but their impact will remain.
“When we hear the word VAX, no matter how many years from now when we’re through this period, it will trigger some memories, both positive and negative.”