Vaccine, word of the year 2021 according to the FundéuRAE | Culture


There are those who have three, the most protected; Others have been given two, there are those who have not wanted one and there are those who have railed with statements such as that they contained microchips, and also the situation in each country is different. The solution to this supposed riddle is “vaccine”, the word of the year as announced this Wednesday by the Foundation for Urgent Spanish (FundéuRAE). This entity, made up of the Efe Agency and the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), annually chooses the term that has had, in its opinion, the greatest impact, great prominence among Spanish-speakers, which seems quite evident on this occasion, especially Because last Monday it was a year since Araceli Hidalgo became the first person in Spain at the age of 96 to receive a dose of the covid vaccine.

The concept of a vaccine “arose in the 18th century, as a result of the discovery by the English doctor Edward Jenner that those infected by cowpox or bovine pox were protected against human smallpox”, indicates the FundéuRAE in its statement. In Spanish, it was used for a time vaccinate, word created from Latin vaccinus, that is to say, “from the cow”, but he ended up being vaccinated, “which appeared for the first time in the Dictionary of the RAE in 1803, although not with its current meaning, which was included in 1914 ”.

This meaning of vaccine, the most popular today, is the sixth of the term: “Antigen preparation that, applied to an organism, provokes in it a defense response.” To clarify more, antigen is “the substance that, introduced into an animal organism, gives rise to defense reactions, such as the formation of antibodies.” Vaccine can also be used in a figurative sense: “Books are a vaccine against ignorance” (to take an easy example).

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The FundéuRAE seeks for its word of the year that it has had “a great presence in the social, political, scientific and economic debate and that the selected one also has a linguistic interest”, either because of its origin or use, without it having to be a neologism. This voice and its derivatives, such as vaccination or vaccinated, “have been present throughout the Spanish-speaking world this year, either in isolation or as part of more extensive constructions: booster vaccine, mass vaccination point, vaccination schedule…”, adds the Foundation. It is also a word that “has motivated the appearance of new concepts, such as vaccinadrome (formed with the cultured base-dromo, which refers to a large space intended for specific purposes) or vacuguagua (acronym for vaccination and bus) ”.

The writer Soledad Puértolas, a member of the RAE, has been in the deliberations of the team of experts that has chosen this word: “On this occasion it was very clear, there was a general agreement because the vaccine is at all hours in our conversations,” she declared by phone. Puértolas points out that a vaccine was already proposed last year, but confinement was released after much debate. “Vaccine is a young word and it has something optimistic about it, a positive charge because it has meant fighting diseases that are difficult to eradicate. We wanted to give a very humane message because it expresses the will of the human being to find a remedy for our illnesses ”.

The author, who has just published the book of short stories Quartet (Anagrama), believes that the bovine voice is less literary than, for example, confinement. “The words of defense in the face of something may not play as much for a writer, however, it has more of a historical character.”

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In its note, the FundéuRAE emphasizes that throughout the year it has made numerous recommendations to the media on the proper use of the vaccine, so as not to confuse it with other terms, such as serum, antidote or immunization. “And its use with certain verbs, such as inoculate, which is a generic term to refer to administering a vaccine, has raised doubts, while injecting refers to a specific way of doing it.”

12 finalists

The process to award the vaccine as the word of the year had a preliminary phase, with 12 finalists, announced on December 20, among which were also voices related to the pandemic, such as denier and variant; terms such as cryptocurrency, megawatt, and Taliban, and rarer ones, such as carbon neutrality or eco-anxiety. All were chosen by a team of linguists, journalists and proofreaders, who submitted their proposal to the board of the FundéuRAE, a body made up of members of both institutions. This could later add or remove any of those 12. The process to choose the winning word has been identical: proposal of the experts and consensus with the board of trustees.

This is the ninth time that the FundéuRAE has chosen its word of the year. The first word of the year was escrache, in 2013, followed by selfi (2014), refugee (2015), populism (2016), aporophobia (2017), microplastic (2018), emojis (2019) and confinement (2020) .

The objective of FundéuRAE is to ensure the proper use of Spanish in the media through daily recommendations that can be consulted on its website, solving doubts raised by various channels, as well as publishing publications and organizing events, such as the International Language and Journalism Seminar, which is held annually in San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja), the cradle of Spanish.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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