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by Adam Jacot De Boinod


noun. plural noun: neologisms

a newly coined word or expression

Every year neologisms, the official word for newly-coined words, slip effortlessly into our language. Invariably, to stand the test of time, they need brevity, wit and invention, rather than to simply be what linguists call a profanity or a vulgarism. As a philologist, a lover of words, I list my favourites that have originated across 2021 and from all over the English-speaking globe and come into general use typically from newspapers and social networks.

Inevitably, two years ago it was all about Brexit and last year about Covid. Instead, I want to share those however that intrigue and raise an eyebrow, offering, as they do, a brand new set of experiences:

Of the more interesting lingo to come from this wretched virus are:

PANPANIC a strong feeling of fear experienced by many people during the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to a lack of reasonable thought and action

VAXI TAXI a taxi that picks people up from their home and takes them to a clinic for their Covid-19 vaccination, with the person sometimes being vaccinated while they are sitting in the taxi

LOCKDOWN FOOT a condition resulting from someone having spent lockdown at home in bare feet or slippers, allowing their feet to change shape and making it difficult or painful to wear normal shoes again

The other major priority is climate change:

SPONGE CITY a city that is prone to flooding and so has been rebuilt in a way that allows more rainwater to be absorbed back into the ground

ZOMBIE STORM a type of storm that dies out but then gathers more energy and returns

FIRE CLOUD a type of cloud that develops in very hot, dry conditions from a large amount of smoke that rises into the air from a fire on the ground

And the link between our food and our environment are becoming increasingly inextricable:

FRUGAL BOTTLE a type of bottle made from recycled paper, normally used to hold wine

ECO-AISLE an aisle in a supermarket for food products that have been produced and packaged in a way that causes minimal harm to the environment

CARDENING the activity of growing and looking after plants inside your car

MARINE GARDEN a large area of water or very wet land that is used to grow plants for food

In the meantime, in our resourceful world, there are always new methods employed, with words to match… be it to work:

CHRONOLEADERSHIP a way of organizing your working hours around the times of day when you naturally feel most awake

CHUMOCRACY the situation in which someone important gives jobs to friends rather than to independent people who have the necessary skills and experience

PUB DESK a table in a pub that someone can use as a desk instead of working at home, usually in return for an hourly or daily payment

JOY STRATEGIST someone whose job it is to help people to be happier

HUMAN CLOUD the freelance workers located anywhere in the world who are employed to work on individual tasks that can be done on a computer

SUNSHINE SHIFT a period of time worked by an employee of a café or restaurant that can only open outdoors, and which can be cancelled by the employer if the weather is not good enough to attract customers

… to get dressed:

COMFURY a style of clothing that combines comfort and luxury

SADWEAR clothes that make the wearer feel less sad

BRAINCORE a way of dressing intended to make you look more intelligent

… to eat and drink:

TEA BOMB tea and other ingredients such as herbs and edible flowers contained within a clear, hard shell that melts when it is put into hot water

NOLO (of a drink) containing no alcohol or a very low amount of alcohol

PROFFEE a drink made by mixing cold coffee with protein powder or with a ready-made drink that contains protein

VERTICAL DRINKING drinking while standing at a bar rather than seated at a table

TORNADO OMELETTE a type of omelette made by whisking the eggs with chopsticks as they cook to create a cone shape

DUNCHFAST a meal eaten once a day that combines breakfast, lunch and dinner

… to stretch our legs:

AWE WALK a walk outdoors during which the person walking makes a conscious effort to look at the objects, views, etc. around them

SOUND WALK a walk during which the person walking concentrates on listening to the sounds around them, or listens to a recording of music or a narration designed to accompany the walking route

SLOW MAP a map that shows the best walking routes between different places

… be more exertive:

STRETCHOLOGIST someone who helps you improve your posture and become more flexible by showing you how to stretch properly

BOFFICE a bed used as a workspace by someone who works from home

EVERESTING a sporting challenge where someone cycles (or sometimes runs) up and down the same hill until they have climbed the height of Mount Everest

BUNGALOW a condition where the leg muscles have become weak through living in a single-storey house and not having to climb stairs

SKIN FASTING the practice of using no, or very few, skincare products on your face for a set period of time, thought by some people to be good for the skin

HILIT an abbreviation for “high-intensity low-impact training”: physical training that consists of short periods of intense exercise with short periods of rest in between but does not include any exercise that puts pressure on the body’s joints, such as jumping

MENTAL HEALTH GYM a gym that offers activities designed to improve the mental health as well as the physical health of its members

… or get to travel:

MIDWEEKER a short holiday taken during the week and not over a weekend

ROBOTAXI a taxi that is driven without being controlled directly by humans

SPREAD BOOKING the practice of booking several holidays to different places, with the intention of cancelling all but one of them before the date of travel

… or read:

QUIT LIT a type of book that gives advice on how to stop drinking alcohol; or a type of book that discusses the experience of resigning from one’s job in academia

SUBURBANOIR a style of books, films etc. involving exciting, and often illegal, events that happen in an otherwise quiet neighbourhood

… or listen to music:

HYPERPOP a type of popular music, usually distributed online, that experiments with and exaggerates the traditional elements of pop music

SPATIAL AUDIO a way of streaming music that makes the sound seem to be coming from many different places

OCEAN VINYL records that have been made out of recycled plastic found in the ocean, or the material used to make them

KINDIE a style of music that appeals equally to children and adults and that is mainly written and performed by independent musicians who do not work for a large music company

And, of course, the internet and social media only know how to advance our cause:

DRAGGING SITE an online platform whose members observe the behaviour of someone in the public eye and criticize their actions very severely

METAVERSE a shared online space where people, represented by avatars, can take part in many different activities, using virtual reality and augmented reality technology

DECOMPONENTISE to remove the individual components of a device such as a mobile phone in order to recycle them

… before Morpheus inexorably wraps things up:

SLEEPCAST a podcast containing sounds and voices that are designed to give you a good night’s sleep

REVERSE LIE-IN a time when you go to bed much earlier than usual then get up early the next morning

Adam Jacot de Boinod was a researcher for Stephen Fry’s BBC television series QI, which led to an interest in words. Adam is the author of The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from around the World, published by Penguin Books.