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'Single-use' singled out as Collins' word of the year

By Earle Gale in London | China Daily UK | Updated: 2018-11-07 23:57
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'Single-use' describes things that are made to be used once only, commonly referring to disposable plastic items such as straws and bottles. [Photo/VCG]

Widespread concern about environmental degradation caused by discarded plastics has led Britain's Collins Dictionary to name "single-use" as its English-language word of the year for 2018.

It beats "MeToo" and "whitewash" to first place in the top 10 list released on Wednesday. Collins said each word "reflects an ever-evolving culture and the preoccupations of those who use it".

Collins said "single-use", which describes one-use-only items "whose unchecked proliferation are blamed for damaging the environment and affecting the food chain", has undergone a four-fold increase in usage since 2013.

Helen Newstead, Collins' head of language content, 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 revitalization and adaptation of old ones."

"Vegan", a word describing people who avoid animal products, and "plogging", a fitness craze born in Scandinavia that combines jogging with picking up litter, were other environment-related words to make the list, AFP reported.

Britain's pending departure from the European Union gave Collins its 2016 word of the year – "Brexit" – and Brexit gave life to two new words on this year's list: "backstop" and "gammon". "Backstop" refers to a fallback position that may be used if no other arrangement is made and refers to the Plan B that would result if the UK and EU fail to reach a divorce deal. "Gammon", which has long been used to describe a type of cured pork, is now a derogatory term for pro-Brexit supporters who are white, male, and middle-aged.

"Whitewash" in this case refers to a white actor playing a character from an ethnic minority, while "VAR", an abbreviation of video assistant referee, and "gaslight", a manipulator of romantic partners via false information, are also listed. "Floss", which describes a new style of dancing inspired by the video game Fortnite, is also in the top 10.

The Guardian newspaper noted that the new and notable words selected by Collins' lexicographers from 4.5 billion words in the language and will be added to Collins' online dictionary and monitored before a decision is made on whether they should be added to the print version.

Past words of the year include 2013's "geek", "photobomb" in 2014, and "binge-watch", which was number one in 2015. Donald Trump's nemesis, "fake news", was word of the year in 2017.

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