'Single-Use' Really Is the Word of the Year We Deserve

Yes, "Gammon" is definitely funnier, but 2018 should be remembered for its environmental shockwaves.

by Lauren O'Neill
07 November 2018, 4:55pm

I'm afraid to say: it is "that time of year". Collins Dictionary has unveiled its annual Word of the Year shortlist, made up of 2018's most zeitgeist-y words and phrases, and the Word of the Year itself – the word that, according to linguistic experts, will come to define 2018 for years to come.

This year, soberingly, that word is "single-use", in specific reference to our approach to plastics and other throwaway items. In a year when we've become more materially aware than literally ever of climate change, it's probably appropriate – if entirely depressing – that Collins wants to remind us of our shitty habits, considering how little we do in general to change them!

But "single-use" shouldn't get all the glory; the shortlist was full of bangers. When observed together, they paint an interesting and accurate portrait of the 2018 we've had so far. So, out of interest, I asked a spokesperson for Collins Dictionary why they made the choices they did (mostly because of a rise in general usage) and also included my general thoughts, because if you're not here to read excellent jokes about VAR, you should know that you are on! the wrong! website!


As well as being "the position I was forced to play in PE because I had an asthma attack every time I broke out into even a mild canter", backstop represents the system that's currently being touted as a last resort for avoiding a hard border between Ireland and a post-Brexit UK.

"Brexit" was the Word of the Year in 2016, and "backstop", say Collins, "is one of many words Brexit has given us". Thank you, Brexit.


Say Collins: "Floss is an old word with a new meaning, this time the video game victory dance that has become a playground craze practiced by many adults as well!" Adults like Ross Kemp on a particularly cursed episode of Loose Women:


Jeans-and-sheux Brexit bastards who go puce – the colour of a certain type of hamme, perhaps – after one pint and an enormous shout about immigration and the job market (irrelevant to them, because they have worked for the same insurance company for 18 years). We all know this one, but for posterity the good people at Collins confirm that it's "another word we have Brexit to thank for", though do note that "this particular usage can be traced back to Dickens" (he uses it in Nicholas Nickleby – more here if you're interested).


Or, the act of convincing someone – usually a romantic partner – that their perception of events is incorrect. The verb to gaslight "has seen a 20-fold increase over the last five years", say Collins. This year, it even became a hot topic on Love Island, the cultural largesse of which might well contribute to gaslight's Word of the Year shortlisting.


MeToo originated last year as a hashtag campaign, but Collins have some insight into its evolution as an actual word: "MeToo is transcending its original status as a hashtag campaign to become part of the language, with usage such as 'MeToo moments' and 'the MeToo era'."

I know this is quite *does A Level English Language once*, but isn't it fascinating to see how our language advances? Anyone?


This is a load of shite that I've never heard of, but it sounds exactly like the sort of weight-loss nonsense your mum would get roped into by her work mates. "I'm just off for a plog, won't be long!!!" she trills to your dad, whose head is in his hands. "She's gone obsessed with 'plogging'." he texts you.

FYI, it's "brand new this year" and refers to a Swedish-originated craze of jogging while picking up litter. Who fucking knows, honestly.


Here he is, the big boy, the heavy hitter. Collins say that the 2018 Word of the Year's use "has seen a four-fold increase since 2013 and has increasingly come to represent the plastics seen as damaging the environment". I mean, yeah. Climate panic seems to have characterised life in the UK this year – with our sweltering summer, our moral crisis over drinking straws and the repeated high-profile warnings that, without major infrastructural change, the planet is, scientifically speaking, absolutely fucked.

This is not the Word of the Year we want (who wouldn't have preferred "gammon", for the craic), but it is the Word of the Year we deserve.


I don't even like football that much, but I absolutely loved VAR during the World Cup, which saw usage of the term "leap eight-fold", according to Collins. Which is completely understandable: it is extremely, extremely funny to see big lads in shorts looking aggrieved and making a square in the air with their fingers, and to be honest I have missed it.

I think I would like to be able to do the VAR sign during the events of my own life, because it is essentially a technique for the prolonged avoidance of responsibility, which, obviously, is brilliant. "Sorry Miss O'Neill but your card was declined for this purchase of seven jelly shots on Friday 2nd November." VAR, sir! VAR indeed!


As the current boom in vegan products in supermarkets and restaurants attests, veganism is very much "on the rise". While she might not be able to tell you exactly what it is, your nan has now almost definitely at least heard the word "vegan", which is basic proof of its omnipresence.

Collins say that use of the word "has seen a steady rise over the last decade, becoming more and more mainstream, as seen by 'Veganuary' and a vegan week on The Great British Bake Off this year". Most interestingly, they add that "usage doubled this year over 2017", meaning there are now at least two more of us who'll tell you at any opportunity that "the cheese really has actually got so much better now".


Word of the Year
end of the year
collins dictionary