Big Story 10

Factbox: From 'cancelling' J.K. Rowling to 'eco-anxiety', 7 terms that took off in 2019

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Author J.K. Rowling became the latest person to be “canceled” on Friday in a row over transgender rights after the action signifying online outrage took off in 2019, along with terms such as “girly swot” and “eco-anxiety”.

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg attends a climate strike of the "Fridays For Future" movement outside the Swedish parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm, December 20, 2019. TT News Agency/Pontus Lundahl via REUTERS

Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, was both blasted and praised for backing a tax expert who was sacked over a tweet in which she wrote that people cannot change their biological sex.

The surge in the use of “canceled” over the year came alongside increasing discussions over “flight shaming” and the use of “they” as a singular pronoun.

Here are seven terms that took off in 2019 in relation to climate change as well as women’s and LGBT+ coverage:

1. Canceled

Celebrities from Kanye West to Bill Gates have been “canceled” in 2019 as the internet expressed outrage at their actions or political views and vowed to withdraw support for the stars. The move, however, rarely results in real-world ramifications for superstars.

2. Climate Emergency

Oxford Dictionaries, a collection of online dictionaries produced by a publishing house of Oxford University, declared climate emergency its word of the year after seeing its usage soar more than 10,796%. Researchers said this demonstrated a shift in the way people were talking about the climate.

3. They (singular)

U.S. dictionary Merriam-Webster picked the singular use of “they” to describe someone who does not identify as male or female as its word of the year. It said searches for that use of the word had increased by more than 300% this year.

4. Self-partnered

British actress Emma Watson made headlines in November when she told Vogue magazine she was happy to be single as she neared her 30th birthday, adding: “I call it being self-partnered.” The term went viral, both praised and ridiculed, even though the actress later said it was just “a throwaway comment”.

5. Flygskam or Flight Shame

Taking off in Sweden, home of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, the term “Flygskam”, translated as “flight shame”, was coined in reaction to shifting attitudes towards air travel and the drive to reduce carbon emissions. Thunberg refuses to fly to events and other travellers are looking for more climate-friendly travel options.

6. Eco-anxiety

Oxford Dictionaries recorded a 4,290% increase in the term “eco-anxiety” in 2019, particularly among young people. The American Psychological Association defined eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”, while mental health studies from Greenland to Australia revealed a surge in people reporting stress or depression about the impact of climate change.

7. Girly Swot

After revelations that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to a predecessor David Cameron as a “girly swot” in a cabinet paper, the term was adopted with pride by women in politics and elsewhere to mean intelligent, smart, funny women.

Sources: European Commission, Merriam-Webster, Collins, Oxford Dictionaries, Chinese Academy of Sciences, European Environmental Bureau, ReachOut, University of Copenhagen Center for Social Data Science, American Psychological Association, United States Patent and Trademark Office

Reporting by Rosa Furneaux, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit