Effective communication Language and ideas

Words we love to hate (and a few we love)

As we close the door on 2020, we’d also like to close the door on 2020 jargon.

We’re passionate anti-jargon activists, but we’re aware that jargon is a touchy subject and a moving target. Terms that come into common use create shared understanding and experience, providing a valuable communication shortcut. However, overuse dilutes their meaning, and before long, they’re sad clichés.

We’re as tired of 2020 jargon as we are of staring at computer screens 24 hours a day. The good news? One of these things can change in 2021.

We believe you can share timely ideas with audiences without going down this path. To find out how, let’s take a look at a few words that became especially popular in 2020.


Guess what? Everything’s virtual, folks. Everything’s also “remote” and “digital.” It’s part of our “new reality.” How do we talk about doing business without using these terms? By being specific. We hold meetings on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Customers shop on our website. (If it’s a well-designed experience, that’s all they need to know.) That Pure Barre class is being offered via live video; check your email for the link. No buzzwords needed here.

As you beef up your online presence, give your audiences concrete cues to follow. “Virtual” doesn’t say anything useful.


If you’re doing your part to try to curb the spread of COVID, thank you. The measures that retail, hospitality, and other industries have taken to keep going while adhering to public health protocols demonstrate innovation and resilience. New e-commerce and hybrid shopping models are a few key examples. They make purchases fast, safe, and easy.

“Contactless” is a 2020 term to help reassure people they won’t have to touch people and/or surfaces to get what they need. Its use and impact will likely fade when the public health crisis wanes.


The word “lockdown” gets thrown around somewhat interchangeably with “shelter in place,” “social distancing,” and “shutdown” – though the terms all have slightly varying meanings. Post-COVID, these terms will have only negative connotations and should be avoided at all costs, even when describing the events of 2020.

Why? Because after the fact, the ugly details surrounding the response to COVID will be less relevant than the overall facts. Just the words “2020,” “COVID,” and “coronavirus” will sufficiently communicate the timbre of the times.

Words of the year

Now that we’ve laid to rest a few words we hate, we’re ready to geek out over a few we love. Oxford Languages found that the year 2020 couldn’t be neatly summed up in a single word, so it published a report pulling together a number of key words that helped shape our 2020 experience. Here are a few tidbits.


Remember the Australian fires of early 2020? They signaled a degree of catastrophe that many felt couldn’t be exceeded. How little we knew then. Bushfire is not a new word by any means, but it’s a vivid word and a genuinely sticky metaphor.


Operation Moonshot is the name of the UK’s mass COVID testing program. Regardless of people’s feelings about the program, its name is pure genius. According to Merriam-Webster, moonshot refers to “a project or venture that is intended to have deep-reaching or outstanding results after one heavy, consistent, and usually quick push.” It evokes imagery of the space race, one of the most electrifying and unifying initiatives of the 20th century.


The notion of having a “bubble” or “pod” means something different to everyone in 2020. Regardless, it’s become a common term to describe how we socialize, work, learn – or simply move about. For example, you might say that the grocery store with the great deli counter is inside your bubble, but the one with the best bakery isn’t – it’s too far away, too crowded, etc.

Why is this such a great term? Because it had meaning for people before the pandemic, and that meaning has grown in the past year. It likely won’t fade into obscurity in the coming years.

Using language well is a delicious way to share great ideas and get people excited about them. Contact Consummate Prose today to learn how we can help you build a brand vocabulary that sings.

One reply on “Words we love to hate (and a few we love)

Thank you for an interesting article. For me, some jargon is welcome. As reassuring as comfort food on a winter day. The metaphor a ‘shot in the arm’ may dominate early 2021 to add a positive feel for people who have been in the doldrums for many months. Those who have been given the coronavirus vaccination all have a similar response in reply to how they feel. There is a ‘born again’ message for those who wait in line. I can live with jargon. It’s like a life buoy that one can cling to when times are rough. Jargon offers a safety blanket as the words can be familiar and warming. I hope we loose the Trump jargon in 2021 as ‘fake news’ takes a back seat. I apologise if I have over egged the pudding – just not ready to let go just yet!

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