Word of the Year 2020 Futures

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Word of the Year 2020 Futures
A volunteer worker disinfects a public bus station in Curitiba against the new coronavirus, COVID-19. - (Photo by Daniel CASTELLANO / AFP)

Terms related to the global pandemic dominate the futures betting market on the Merriam-Webster Publishing Word of the Year 2020.

BetOnline has made COVID-19 the -155 favorite to be named Merriam-Webster Publishing’s Word of the Year 2020. However, it faces stern competition from several other common terms related to the respiratory illness that has swept across the globe.

Last year “they” stormed to victory after it was increasingly used to refer to a person whose gender identity is non-binary. “Justice” was named Word of the Year 2018, “feminism” won the award in 2017 and “surreal” finished top of the pile the previous year. Which word will join that roll of honor? These are the frontrunners to be named Word of the Year 2020, along with odds from BetOnline:

COVID-19 (-155): the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. The term was only coined a few months ago, but it already has around 5 billion search results on Google. It is used in newspaper headlines around the world, it heads up TV news broadcasts and it has quickly become a part of the everyday lexicon. It is the clear favorite to be named Word of the Year, despite its grim associations. The Words of the Year usually reflect events that happened during that year, and all other events pale in comparison to the COVID-19 crisis.

Coronavirus (+200): a general term used to refer to a family of large, single-stranded RNA viruses that have a lipid envelope studded with club-shaped spike proteins. These spines make it look like a crown. Previous pathogenic coronavirus epidemics include SARS and MERS. This was another word that barely registered six months ago, yet it is now on everyone’s lips and has more than 2.6 trillion Google search results.

Social Distancing (+200): the concept of staying 6-feet apart in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Across the world, people are practicing social distancing as governments strive to restart economies that have been ravaged by the pandemic. This is actually a two-word phrase, and Word of the Year has never previously been awarded to two words, although -ism did win in 2015.

Covidiot (+400): a popular portmanteau used to describe people that flout health and safety guidelines and risk spreading coronavirus by failing to practice social distancing. “Incredible moment covidiot explains she cut a hole in her face mask because ‘it makes it easier to breathe’” roared a recent headline.

Self-Quarantine (+400): the concept of staying at home in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Anyone suffering symptoms such as a persistent cough or a temperature has been advised to self-quarantine for at least two weeks to prevent the disease from spreading further.

Pandemic (+500): this looks like a strong bet at odds of +500. There have been plenty of pandemics in the past, but none have turned society on its head to this extent. The COVID-19 pandemic has crashed economies around the world, killed hundreds of thousands of people, and caused the greatest disruption to daily life since World War Two. It is possibly the greatest public health threat since the 1918 Spanish flu, and the Hollywood movie Pandemic, starring Matt Damon, has grown exceptionally popular on Netflix during the lockdown.

Work From Home (+700): again this is a phrase, rather than a single word. Millions of people have been working from home during this period, and it is likely to cause a permanent shift to remote working. However, this seems an unlikely choice for Word of the Year.

A man wearing a facemask walks past a sign board displaying preventive meausres against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, on March 16, 2020. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP)

The Rest

There are many more options in this market, and most relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation and Zoom are both priced at +900, epidemiologist is +1000, recession is +1000 and disease and outbreak are both +1200. Amazon.com is +1400 after its shares soared during the pandemic, while respiratory is +1400. Long shots include immunocompromised, super-spreader, asymptomatic, nonessential, epidemic, lockdown, Kleenex and Patient Zero. Lockdown might make an interesting long shot at +2500. A more hopeful Word of the Year could be vaccine at +2000, but that would probably be reliant on someone actually coming up with one.

Another great shout could be furlough. It was a pretty obscure term at the start of the year, but it shot to prominence after governments allowed companies to furlough their workers during the coronavirus lockdown. It refers to workers that are granted a leave of absence, and governments have stepped in and covered a percentage of their wages. Denmark, Germany, France, the UK, and Ireland are among the countries to roll out furlough schemes, while the US launched the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program. Furlough is +1800.

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