Oxford Dictionaries has chosen ‘ climate emergency ‘ as its 2019 Word of the Year, selecting it from an all-environmental shortlist which also includes ‘ climate action, ‘ ‘ climate denial, ‘ ‘ eco-anxiety, ‘ ‘ extinction ‘ and ‘ plane shame. ‘ The Word of the Year quotation is intended to highlight ‘ a word or expression shown through evidence of use that represents the ethos, mood or concerns of the passing year.
The shortlist typically includes a variety of different words that demonstrate new linguistic use patterns. While the choices are often inflected politically, Oxford Dictionaries editor Katherine Connor Martin said the unusual decision to focus on climate-related terms reflected a “demonstrable escalation” in climate language.
Based on data collected in the Oxford Corpus, a database containing hundreds of millions of written English words, the use of the term “climate emergency” has increased by a hundredfold since 2018. In addition, “emergency” was the most common term, occurring three times as frequently as the next most common, “health emergency.”
In part, Martin noted, it represents a deliberate decision to use “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” instead of “climate change” by some news organizations, including The Guardian, to better communicate the urgency of the situation.
Oxford’s selection of an all-environmental shortlist did not reflect a similar intentional decision to focus the attention of individuals, but a reading of the lexicographic facts, if necessarily subjective.
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