What’s “The Economist’s” word of 2022? From the Johnson language columnist, Lane Greene


In “The Economist’s” year-end special edition on language (named the “Johnson” column, after the great 18th century lexicographer, Samuel Johnson), language columnist Lane Greene writes that dictionary publishers and language societies annually choose a “word of the year,” with considerable difficulty.

He says: “It is difficult finding a word that is creative, memorable and likely to succeed while also somehow representing the year . . . . [A]fter ranging over technology, the economy, the war in Ukraine and the lingering effects of Covid-19, ” he says, ” I settled on the . . . phrase that I considered most likely to be with us for a good while, and even to reshape our lives.”

Some options were place-names from Ukraine, under the siege of Russia’s invasion (e.g. “Zaporishia”) or economic problems intensified by that war (e.g. “shrinkflation”), international business, economics and finance (e.g. “decoupling” of Western businesses from China), climate change  (e.g. “loss ad damage”) and many more.

Greene selected a term (more accurately, a phrase) that is  “neither clever or lovely, ” but is influencing professional and personal lives across the globe.

What is it?

“Hybrid work.” And here’s his defense:

“After the lockdowns of 2020, followed, in 2021, by a slow return to the office, 2022 was the year that hybrid work settled in. Working at home some of the time has advantages (decongesting cities and fewer painful commutes), and disadvantages (fears of lower productivity combined with a sense of never being off duty). In the spring Twitter announced a policy of unlimited working from home for those who wanted it. When Elon Musk bought the company he promptly decreed the opposite. But most firms have not gone to either extreme, instead trying to find the best of both worlds.

As a coinage, hybrid work is no beauty. But it will reshape cities, careers, family life and free time. That is ample qualification for a word of the year.”

Read Greene’s article here.