Skip to main content

Editorial comment

Every year, I keep an eye out for what the Collins English Dictionary pronounces to be its ‘word of the year’. Some of you may recall that I’ve written about this in the past, back when ‘single-use’ (as in ‘single-use plastics’) was heralded as 2018’s most significant word.


View online issue »


To my mind, the importance of this annual event has gathered pace in recent years, and the ‘word of the year’ can now be seen as an emblem to the year that was; a simple word or phrase that serves as a signpost to instantly remember the most significant event(s) of an entire year.

Prior to 2016, the winners of this prestigious award were a little less ‘year defining’, shall we say. In 2013, we had ‘geek’, 2014 brought us ‘photobomb’, and in 2015 ‘binge-watch’ topped the list. While all worthy winners, it’s fair to say that none of these words can stand as a coat of arms to their respective years. However, from then on we had ‘Brexit’ (2016), ‘fake news’ (2017), the aforementioned ‘single-use’ (2018) and ‘climate strike’ (2019). Look back at this list in 20 years’ time and these four words or phrases will immediately place the reader back in the fractious world of political and social tensions that have dominated the last five years.

The word of the year for 2020 goes even further. Truth be told, the shortlist of nominees this year is extraordinary, and an honourable mention must go to ‘coronavirus’, ‘BLM’ (the abbreviation for ‘Black Lives Matter’), ‘key worker’, ‘furlough’, ‘self isolate’ and ‘social distancing’, any of which would have been worthy winners.

But it is ‘lockdown’ – the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces – which took the crown. The lexicographers at Collins chose the word because “it is a unifying experience for billions of people across the world, who have had, collectively, to play their part in combating the spread of COVID-19.”

It seems likely that lockdown will go on to become the word of the decade, if not the century. The profound impact that it has had on all of our lives this year is obvious, and the downstream sector has undoubtedly suffered a heavy blow as a result of stringent restrictions across the world. However, the aftershocks of lockdown restrictions will be felt for many years to come. While many of these aftershocks will be extremely challenging, others will present new opportunities for innovative technology and solutions that can help industry thrive in the ‘new normal’ of a transitioning world. In light of these challenges, and those that a Joe Biden presidency will present in the years ahead, it is essential that our industry remains agile and adaptable. And for our part, Hydrocarbon Engineering will continue to strive to bring you the latest industry news, technical articles and case studies to equip you with the key tools you'll need to shape the future of our industry.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers and advertisers well, and send the best wishes of the entire Hydrocarbon Engineering team your way. Here's hoping for a brighter 2021; a year that creates a shortlist of positive words to remember it by.


View profile