With its finger on the linguistic pulse of the English-speaking world, Oxford Dictionaries has chosen “climate emergency” as its 2019 Word of the Year, using a shortlist that, for the first time ever, drew not from a wide range of words, but rather from a single category: climate change.
Katherine Connor Martin, an editor with the venerable dictionary company, told the New York Times the decision to build the shortlist out of climate-related terms owed to a “demonstrable escalation” in their use over the past year.
“When we were looking through the evidence, it was just clear that issues relating to the climate were running through all the different lexical items we were working with,” she said. “It reflects it was a real preoccupation of the English-speaking world in 2019.”
As for the term “climate emergency” itself, the Times notes that its use “increased by a hundredfold since 2018, according to data collected in the Oxford Corpus, a database containing hundreds of millions of words of written English.”
That reflected “a deliberate decision by some news organizations, including The Guardian, to use ‘climate emergency’ or ‘climate crisis’ instead of ‘climate change,’ to better convey the urgency of the situation.”
“Climate denial,” “flight shame,” and “extinction” also made the shortlist for 2019 Word of the Year.