‘Iso’ Picked as the Australian Word of the Year

November 18, 2020 Updated: November 18, 2020

The Australian National Dictionary Centre (ANDC) has named “iso,” an abbreviated Australian slang for self-isolation, as the Word of the Year.

The term is defined as “the act of remaining apart from others as a way to limit the spread of an infectious disease, especially as a public health measure,” and its usage has boomed in a year dominated by CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, or novel coronavirus.

Annually, the Centre, based at The Australian National University (ANU), picks a word or expression which best sums up the year.

Considered “distinctively Australian,” “iso” beat other pandemic-related terms including “bubble” and “covid-normal.”

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An open dictionary (Stevepb/ Pixabay)

Among a shortlist of five expressions, “Black Summer,” a name given to the 2019-20 catastrophic bushfires, was the only word not related to the virus.

ANDC Senior Researcher Mark Gwynn said “iso” had been selected because it is characteristically Australian and can be easily combined with other words to form compounds, such as “iso baking,” “iso bar,” “iso workouts,” or “iso fashion.”

“Our fondness for abbreviating words in Australia, and a natural human inclination to make the unknown and scary familiar, quickly saw the descriptive term ‘self-isolation’ shortened to iso in March this year,” he said.

Many people found that adding a bit of humour to our every speech can help them cope with the unprecedented changes in the current working and social circumstances, Gwynn believed.

“So why not talk about a bad-self-inflicted haircut as an iso cut, or the extra weight gained due to lack of exercise as iso kilos,” he said.

The shortlisted phrases not only need to be interesting and “typically Aussie,” but also should reflect some of the year’s significant events.

“Bubble” was selected for its use to describe a group or region isolated from others to limit the spread of the virus. It was also found in compounds such as “travel bubble,” for the trans-Tasman, interstate and Australia-New Zealand travel bubbles.

“Sporting bubble” can be seen in reference to restrictions placed on sportspeople to make sure they can play safely, according to The Guardian.

Another was “covid-normal,” used by the National Cabinet to describe the last stage of the three-step plan to reopen the border by Christmas.

“Driveway” was also in the running, which refers to individual Anzac Day vigils in 2020 in compounds such as “driveway Anzac service” and “driveway dawn service.”

Last year’s winners of ANDC Word of the Year was “voice” as in an Indigenous voice to parliament, beating the shortlisted “quiet Australians,” “fish kill” and “influencer.” The term grabbed national attention in 2017 following the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Pandemic-related phrases such as coronavirus, lockdown, self-isolate and social distancing was among Collins Dictionary top 10 words of 2020, with “lockdown” being named word of the year with a 6,000% increase in usage since 2019.

In 2019, The Committee of Macquarie Dictionary announced “cancel culture” as their choice for Word of the Year because the term reflects “an attitude which is so pervasive that it now has a name”. Dictionary.com defined the word as a popular practice of dismissing somebody if their action or words were considered offensive.