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"Lockdown" declared top SA word of 2020

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Of the words that were shortlisted for the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) in association with media research company, Focal Points, “Lockdown” was declared SA’s Word of the Year on Friday.

The South African Word of the Year is a word, term or expression preferred to reflect the passing year in language.

Other shortlisted candidates for the award include “Covid-19” and “Jerusalema”.

PanSALB reviewed the candidates and chose one that captures the philosophy, mood, or preoccupations of this particular year.  

“We can all attest to the rampage caused by the Coronavirus. It is all that we have talked about as we continue to navigate through its unforgiving rage. Hence, in choosing this year’s SA Word of the Year we have had to take the process a step further to broaden the criteria and also consider the cultural significance and influence the word has had amongst South Africans” said PanSALB Acting Chief Executive,  Willie Manana, in a statement.

“The lockdown has affected various parts of our lives and continues to do so. How we conduct business, our social interactions and cultural practices,” he added.

Focal Points tracked the use of particular keywords from October 2019 to September 2020.

This data was analysed to pinpoint the impact they have within the media and how often each of the words appeared in trustworthy print, broadcast and online media.

The use of the words on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, peoples’ everyday interactions reactions to the words and their cultural significance were considered.

When the National State of Disaster was announced on 15 March 2020, PanSALB said the word ‘lockdown’ suddenly became a relevant topic and crept its way into everyday vocabulary.

“Scores of people queued outside bottle stores and supermarkets stocking up on groceries in preparation of what was to become one of the strictest lockdowns in the world,” read the statement.

In true Mzansi style, South Africans soon found creative ways to stay entertained during the pandemic to help them adjust to the ‘new normal’.

Many well-known DJ’s and music channels began hosting virtual ‘lockdown parties’ while friends and family took to digital platforms such as Zoom to come together for casual visits, dinner and even birthday parties.

“There is no argument that the lockdown has changed the way we live and has opened up a whole new world that has made it possible for us to work in the comfort of our own homes. Reaching just under half a million (486 224) mentions on print, broadcast, online and further mentions on social media and in everyday conversations - all accumulated in just over six months, we dare say the word/term ‘lockdown’ is a worthy winner,” said PanSALB. 

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