Amid the first pandemic for more than 100 years in which free societies have endured restriction of their civil liberties that few had thought possible, there was surely only one serious candidate for “word of the year” for 2020. Yes, you guessed: “lockdown” .

Other pandemic-linked terms on Collins Dictionary’s10-strong list include “furlough”, “key worker”, “self-isolate” and “social distancing” as well as “coronavirus”. Non-virus related words to make the list reflect the social and political events of 2020.

Runners-up included the abbreviation “BLM” (the Black Lives Matter movement). And “Megxit”, to describe the ongoing story of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s efforts to extricate themselves from royal responsibilities for a new life in California.

Slightly more obscure, perhaps, is “mukbang”, a term which literally means “eating broadcast”.

It refers to a social media phenomenon that started in South Korea and has since gone viral worldwide in which celebrities and “influencers”, itself a short-listed word of the year in 2019, film themselves consuming food to excess for the benefit of followers on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok. Yuck!

As for me, my vote goes to “bigly”, though isn’t “Trump” a contender, too? Another “bigly” popular term this past year has been “pivot” (for instance, restaurants “pivoting” to home deliveries).

Indeed, “world-beating” dissemination of an effective vaccine (fingers crossed) will prove a “pivotal” point in the saga of Covid-19 – once, that is, they “ramp up” the distribution which will be an “unprecedented” challenge. Let’s just hope it’s “baked-in”, “oven-ready” and they’re “doubling down” on it right now…

Personally, I’ve always hated the word “lockdown”. But then I’ve always hated “dentist”. I had one called Payne and another called Skidmore (that slow drill hanging over me like an evil praying mantis). Plus a school friend who swore he went to a dentist called Dr Fang he never wanted to hear about again.

But then there are certain words that enter common usage that you would NEVER want to hear again either. “Brexit” (2016) is one. “Lockdown” will surely be another…

Nora Johnson’s psychological crime thrillers ‘No Safe Place’, ‘Betrayal’, ‘The Girl in the Woods’, ‘The Girl in the Red Dress’, ‘No Way Back’, ‘Landscape of Lies’, ‘Retribution’, ‘Soul Stealer’, ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.net) available online as eBook (€0.99;£0.99), Apple Books, paperback & audiobook. All profits to Costa del Sol Cudeca cancer charity  

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Nora Johnson

Novelist Nora Johnson offers insights on everything from current affairs to life in Spain, with humour and a keen eye for detail.