Collins Dictionary has announced its choice for 2018 Word of the Year — single-use. This term describes items, often plastic, that are made to be used just once before they are thrown away. The frequent use of these items has been blamed for damaging the environment and negatively affecting the food chain. Since 2013, use of the word has increased fourfold with a rise in public awareness thanks to news stories, images of plastic items adrift in oceans and the global campaign to reduce the proliferation of single-use items, including the infamous plastic straw.
Collins Dictionary selects the word of the year after its lexicographers monitor the 4.5-billion-word Collins Corpus, which is an analytical database that contains written material from websites, newspapers, magazines and books published around the world. The Collins Corpus database also includes words from spoken material on TV and radio, plus everyday conversations.
After the lexicographers monitor the Collins Corpus, they create a list of new and notable words that reflect our ever-changing culture. Things that rose to the top this year included environmental issues, political movements, dance trends and technology.
Other words on the shortlist included ‘floss,’ a dance where you twist your hips in one direction while swinging your arms with fists closed in the opposite direction, made popular by the game Fortnight; ‘VAR,’ or video assistant referee, which became popular in 2018 after being used in the FIFA World Cup; ‘gammon,’ a red-faced, angry person who is the opposite of a “snowflake”; and ‘plogging,’ or picking up litter while jogging, which has become successful following the increase in awareness of humanity’s impact on the environment.
Collins ended up choosing single-use because of the global movement to kick the addiction to disposable products and the increase in awareness of how people’s habits and behaviors impact our world.