Review of Language in 2020

Introduction to Unit 3/4 English Language for 2021

This article has been written by Liam McAlary, a Years 7 – 12, VCE Legal Studies and VCE English Language Tutor at Learnmate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Liam then please check out his page here.


 

Hello everyone, here is my English Language article for January. I hope that you are enjoying your summer break and that you feel prepared and ready for the year ahead. Despite all of our undoubted excitement about the new year, and the fact that 2020 can be kicked the curb once and for all, I have decided to make this article something of a, ‘Linguistic Year in Review,’ where I will examine some of the most interesting language examples from 2020, and try to relate them to the course.

Real world examples are vital to this course, especially for your essays (I have written about the importance of examples before). Examples ought to be contemporary, so these will be older than is ideal by the time your exam comes around, although they will hopefully still be of use to you.

One quick example that I would like to explain initially is the Chief Health Officer. I have heard the position that Brett Sutton currently occupies pronounced both as letters, ‘C.H.O.’ and as a word, ‘CHOE.’ The reason that I have used this example is so that I can quickly show you the distinction between an initialism, which is where you say the individual letters, and an acronym, which you pronounce as a word.

2020 was the year of the Coronavirus pandemic, which brought about significant linguistic development. In a very useful essay, linguists Kate Burridge and Howard Manns discussed some of the language that the situation has brought about. I have too much other language to discuss in this article, so I will not devote much more time to it, although the essay can be found here: ‘Iso’, ‘boomer remover’ and ‘quarantini’: how coronavirus is changing our language (theconversation.com).

Also, a video excerpt of an interview with Professor Burridge on the ABC can be found here: Linguist Kate Burridge writes an essay all about COVID-lingo (msn.com). Additionally, I also wrote multiple articles during the year about some of the language associated with the pandemic (and our epidemic). They can be found here:

 

Further, a quick look at social media can also show you some interesting examples of language. For example, after Victoria had started recording several days of 0 cases and 0 deaths (colloquially referred to as double doughnut days), Tim Smith (the divisive Liberal member for Kew) uploaded a photo of four doughnuts being arranged to look like the number 800, representing the number of deaths that occurred during Victoria’s second wave. However, and rather unfortunately for Mr Smith, the doughnuts also bore a strong resemblance to a male reproductive organ. This led to the alliterative (alliteration is a form of phonological patterning), ‘donutdick’ hashtag being continually used on social media (invariably by those who do not support him and/or his political party) to mock him and undermine his credibility as a member of the opposition. This also became a nickname for Mr Smith, as did, “Dim Tim,” which both uses the phonological patterning of rhyming, and is also a pun, based on the popular, “food,” item, the dim-sim.  This has been used to mock both the member’s intellect (dim obviously being a colloquial adjective for person of subnormal intellect), his weight, and his relatively low popularity (some tweets have compared him to dim sims with regards to popularity in Melbourne).

Moreover, in addition to the pandemic, there were also the United States and Queensland elections, which also gave some interesting language examples, mainly through the use of jargon. Jargon was used by journalists such as Antony Green, Stan Grant, and Casey Briggs (all with the ABC) to show their knowledge of the elections and electoral systems. In respect to the United States, terms like, ‘electoral college,’ (the means by which the US president is elected, this article does not explain the full American electoral process), ‘provisional vote,’ (a vote cast on election day by someone whose ability to do so is not clear), ‘county’ (an administrative region within an American state that helps to organise and analyse vote distribution), and ‘mail-in ballot’ (pretty self-explanatory) were all used to show the knowledge of the reporters, with respect to the specific elements of the United States election, whilst also allowing more efficient analysis, especially in the days that followed after November 4, as time to discuss the election on air was often limited. Similarly, in analysing the Queensland state election, Antony Green used terms such as, ‘preference flows,’ (how second and subsequent preferences are distributed where no candidate reaches a clear majority after primary votes), ‘primary votes’ (first preference votes), and, ‘legislative assembly’ (the lower house of state parliaments, and the only house of Queensland’s parliament). Green used these terms again to show his expertise on elections, and to establish the credibility of the analysis and predictions that he is making, based on the votes that have come in. I could discuss elections all day and explain and analyse their processes, however, this article is already very long, and my interest extends beyond the language used.

With all that said, I hope that this little year in review has given you a few good starting points for examples to have in your back pocket, and to start attaching metalanguage to the language surrounding you.


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Review of Language in 2020