WORD OF THE YEAR 2020: RESPAIR
Every December, we turn our choice of Word of the Year over to you—and after the closest contest ever, a winner has finally emerged in this year’s vote. Following an undeniably tough twelve months, it seems an impressive 30% of you wanted to look ahead a little more positively: the Word of the Year 2020 is respair—a word for renewed hope, or a recovery from a period of anguish or hopelessness.
During voting, respair was tied for several days with our eventual runner-up, aporia—a word for a confusing or perplexing situation, or in rhetoric, a string of bemused questions that helps you get your thoughts in order. In the end, there were still less than 40 votes separating the top two here, bringing the closest contest in five years to a suitably dramatic end.
You can read more about the finalists here.
WORD OF 2020:
(n.) the opposite of despair: renewed hope, a slow recovery from a period of anguish or hopelessness
We did get two surprise Taylor Swift albums out of 2020, but other than that it’s hardly been the most enjoyable year imaginable. But with a change ahead in the White House and promising news on the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, as the year ended there were some reasons to look ahead more positively and hope for a brighter 2021.
Respair, ultimately, was your Word of 2020. That being said, this is a word with a long heritage: its earliest record comes from a work by Andrew of Wyntoun, a Scottish poet who flourished in the late fourteenth century. Looking hopefully towards the future, it seems, is nothing new.
(n.) a confusing or perplexing situation; the state of being lost for words
Where do we even begin to describe a year like this? How can we even put it into words?
An aporia is a puzzling, confounding, mind-boggling situation. But when it first appeared in our language in the 1500s (and still today in certain literary contexts) aporia was a rhetorical term, describing exactly the kind of open-question-posing, getting-your-thoughts-in-order kind of thinking-out-loud that started this paragraph off.
casus omissus 12%
(n.) an event or situation without parallel; a new experience, uncharted territory
Casus omissus essentially means ‘missing event’ in Latin, and in that sense came to be used in legal parlance in the 1600s to describe a case brought before a court that had no legal precedent, or was utterly unprovided for in current legislation. More generally though, a casus omissus is an unprecedented situation—that is, something that has not been witnessed or experienced before.
(n.) a stressful situation that is responded to positively; ultimately beneficial stress
If you’ve picked up the latest HH book, The Cabinet of Calm, you might know this one already. Eustress is the opposite of distress: it refers to a stressful or challenging situation that you respond to positively by being spurred into action, or compelled to perform better or more strongly than you might otherwise have thought possible. Anyone who weathered the storm of 2020 and came out fighting would have known this feeling all too well.
...AND THE REST
(n.) the final stretch of an exhausting journey
The adjective wheady or weady (pronounced the same as weedy) means ‘tiresome’ or ‘arduous’, while a wheady-mile is the final exhausting mile of a journey—typically, the one before your eventual destination. A perennial favourite on Haggard Hawks, more generally the term wheady-mile can be used to describe any journey that seems longer, tougher, or more wearisome than it truly is, which after the events of 2020 made this a popular choice among the also-rans. Though alas, not quite popular enough to take the crown.