A tumultuous quarter—our experts choose the words for the final few months of 2022
We mentioned in our previous blog that mini-budget was the only word not related to the death of Queen Elizabeth II among the top ten words in our corpus that were significantly more frequent in September than the preceding months.
Taking place on 23 September 2022, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s “mini-budget” sparked a series of economic events that were quickly called a doom loop—our word for October.
The term doom loop dates back to at least the 1980s in reference to a self-perpetuating downward spiral (broadly synonymous with vicious cycle). It is still often used in this sense. Examples in the corpus include:
- “Increasing wildfires create a doom-loop that increases atmospheric carbon levels that risks worsening the next fire season” (The Hill, Oct 2021)
- “Those who apply for roles in real estate… are asked for experience before they are considered, creating a doom loop of rejection” (Personnel Today, June 2022)
However, the term is increasingly used in economic contexts, as was the case last year. Usage of the word dramatically spiked in October 2022, largely with reference to the consequences of the UK government’s mini-budget in September. For example:
- “Sterling crashed past $1.11 for the first time since 1985. Yields on UK government bonds, or gilts, blew out as their value collapsed, necessitating an emergency intervention by the Bank of England to stop a ‘doom loop’ of forced selling by pension funds” (Sunday Times, 2 Oct 2022)
- “A doom loop in the debt markets became so scary that the Bank of England had to make a massive emergency intervention for fear that some pension funds were about to go bust” (The Guardian, 2 Oct 2022).
In this context, doom loop was almost eight times more frequent in October 2022 than at the same time the previous year. Other words related to doom loop that also spiked include mini-budget, gilt, unfunded, anti-growth, and Trussonomics, a word very occasionally used before 2022 but which shot up in prominence last year.
Moving onto November 2022, we saw the global spectacle that was the FIFA Men’s World Cup.
The tournament—eventually won by Argentina following a 3-3 draw and dramatic penalty shoot-out against France—was not without controversies. This included the treatment of migrant workers working to build the infrastructure for the competition and the treatment of LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, the host nation.
Our word for November is OneLove, a term that started life as the name of an anti-discrimination campaign by the Dutch Football Association in 2020. It is synonymous with rainbow-coloured armbands worn by team captains bearing its logo.
Before September 2022, the word did not have much of a presence in our corpus, but its prominence skyrocketed in November as the tournament drew nearer and attention towards anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the host nation grew.
In particular, the word was associated with reports that some teams planned to wear the OneLove armbands during games as a sign of protest, but this was abandoned after a very late warning from the governing body that any players doing so would be given a yellow card.
Last year’s severe weather events were not limited to the summer. The UK experienced heavy snow and freezing temperatures in December, and 10 days later across the pond a huge winter storm swept over large parts of the US and Canada.
This led to a large spike in use of the term bomb cyclone. Our word for December, bomb cyclone was over 23 times more frequent in December 2022 than December 2021.
The term dates to at least the early 2000s. For instance:
- “Bomb cyclones have characteristics similar to hurricanes in their power and precipitation intensity… However, there are many major differences between the two storm types… Bomb cyclones have cold air and fronts associated with them, which hurricanes do not, and indeed, cold air is an essential ingredient for a bomb cyclone, while it kills a hurricane.” (The Halifax Daily News (Nova Scotia), 6 Dec. 2004)
Before that, use of the word bomb to refer to a rapidly-developing, severe storm can be traced back to the 1940s:
- “Nature flipped a weather bomb at Ohio today, catching the state unprepared for the worst snowstorm of the year.” (Norwalk (Ohio) Reflector-Herald, 11 Mar. 1948)
The first use of bomb in a more specific weather sense—describing a rapidly developing severe storm in which barometric pressure at the centre of the storm drops by at least 24 millibars over a 24-hour period at or north of 60˚ latitude—appeared in 1980, in a paper written by Frederick Sanders and John R. Gyakum (“Synoptic-Dynamic Climatology of the ‘Bomb’”, Monthly Weather Review, October 1980).
Although the bomb cyclone is not a new phenomenon, the effects of climate change have led extreme weather events such as this to increase in frequency and severity, where previously they might have been once-in-a-generation occurrences.
December’s North American winter storm arrived on the heels of COP27 in November, an international climate conference which focused on ways to adapt to a changing global environment. Discussions of climate justice, climate reparations, and loss and damage also resulted in an increase in the usage of those terms.
A year in words
And that concludes our look back at 2022 in words. It was certainly an eventful year and through it all our ever-changing language helped us to make sense of the world around us and brought us together. At Oxford University Press we continue to monitor the English language—we look forward to seeing what trends emerge this year…