It went from obscurity to saturating daily conversation in a matter of months, and now “ISO” has been recognised as The Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year.
“Isolation” was rarely used often enough to warrant abbreviation prior to the COVID outbreak, but as more and more of us went into iso, attempted iso haircuts or tried iso workouts, the two syllable option became a mainstay of everyday speech.
The centre chose the “typically Aussie” word from a long list of pandemic-related terms.
Officially the definition is “the act of remaining apart from others as a way to limit the spread of an infectious disease, especially as a public health measure”.
“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,” senior researcher Mark Gwynn said.
“Not only is iso distinctively Australian in usage, it has also been linguistically productive by combining with other words to form compounds such as iso baking, iso bar, iso cut, and iso fashion.”
While life in Australia has been dominated by the pandemic for many months, the start of the year was a time of catastrophic bushfires for much of the country.
Black Summer was the only term included in the 2020 shortlist that was not related to COVID-19.
Bubble, covid-normal and driveway were also in the running; the latter selected for its use to describe “driveway dawn services” on Anzac day.
Each year The Australian National Dictionary Centre picks a word or expression that has gained prominence in the social landscape.
Previous Words of the Year include “voice” as in an Indigenous voice to parliament and “Canberra bubble” to describe the insular world of federal politics.