January 1 2022: Google has revealed the most used phrase of 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic: “new normal”, a change from 2020, when “now more than ever” had been the most used phrase.
The phrase was revealed with the help of a Google tool called Ngrams, which shows how phrases and words fell and rose in terms of popularity over time.
Writes Molly McHugh-Johnson in a Google blog:
“New normal.” is a phrase that I personally have heard…well, now more than ever, I suppose. This isn’t the first time “new normal” appeared in the lexicon, though: You can see it began to see small bursts of usage in literature and other writing in the mid-19th century — though if you use Ngrams to see some of the examples of how it showed up, “new normal” was often in reference to types of academic institutions. And then “new normal” just sort of faded away…until the aughts, when it dramatically rose.
Then of course, I thought of “vaccine,” which actually began its Ngrams debut on a high, falling sharply between 1800 and 1813…only to rise again in the early to mid 1900s, when many scholarly articles were published about things like typhoid, cholera and pertussis vaccinations. Then it goes up and down, up and down, to an all-time high in 2003. It’s since slightly fallen off — but remember, Ngrams’ data goes up until 2019, so I have my own assumptions about how it’s fared the past two years.
Lastly, I took a look at “hybrid.” Obviously it’s a word that’s been around for awhile (according to Ngrams, it’s been in use since at least the year 1800, which is how far the tool’s data goes back) and has gently, steadily risen since. It spiked in the early ‘80s, though, but in browsing snippets from Google Books from this time period, it was used similarly to how it is now. Later in the aughts, we start seeing it used to describe cars, and today…well, you probably already know.
What “hybrid” means hasn’t really changed, but it’s the situations we’re applying it to that have — there’s a much wider scope of daily life that falls under this category. “Hybrid” didn’t change, but how we live has. 2020 felt in many ways like a pause on life, and this year we began finding new, creative ways to adapt — a little of our old methods, mixed with the new. And that, to me, feels distinctly 2021.
Read the full blog: “New normal” and other words we used a lot this year (blog.google)