We live in challenging times. All the changes and upheavals of the last two years are reflected in new words and expressions that have entered the language or become more frequent. The theme of our latest new words update (September 2022), optimistically, is ‘back to business’ – but is this really possible?
After the pandemic
After two years of extraordinary measures grappling with Covid-19, many governments decided that we had to learn to live with the virus and return to something like the old normality. The enthusiasm for a new and greener normal in the early weeks of the pandemic, when our roads and skies were freer of polluting vehicles and enforced time at home revealed to many the joys of nature and simpler living, has definitely waned. Vaccine passports, PCR and lateral flow tests are already starting to seem like relics from a strange and distant past. Is it only a matter of time, however, before another challenging zoonotic disease is upon us if we fail to change the farming and food production methods that provide breeding grounds for them?
Effects of the pandemic
So, back to business. But is it business as usual? Many office workers ended up doing their jobs from home for much of the pandemic. While this caused varying levels of difficulty, the advantages of WFH are significant enough for some people that companies are having to consider new policies of hybrid working. Will they manage to coax – or coerce – enough workers back into the offices to restore the old office culture, or have things changed to some extent for good? Will remote working, online town halls and other meetings become the norm?
Record numbers of people aged 50 and over have decided since the pandemic to leave their jobs early for a variety of reasons, including health, care responsibilities and a lack of job satisfaction. Some have chosen after deciding that the time to do what they enjoy – and in some cases live a quieter or simpler life – outweighs the salary that comes with a regular job. At the same time, pandemic work practices may have increased job opportunities for digital nomads.
A world in crisis
This year has brought new crises threatening people and their livelihoods in many parts of the world: notably, the war in Ukraine and its ensuing impact on fuel prices and the supply of food. Governments hoping for a fairly swift return to the pre-pandemic business cycle are having to think again. With soaring inflation, economists are concerned about economies falling into recession. A drop in the real value of wages raises fundamental questions about corporate culture: whether it is right for the C-suite to take home enormous bonuses, especially if their companies have profited from crises or gained lucrative contracts through crony capitalism. Some countries are imposing windfall taxes on energy companies making large profits from the current energy crisis and those taxes will be used to help protect the public from rising prices through price caps.
In spite of these measures, though, many of the poorest and most vulnerable in society are facing fuel poverty. Food banks are experiencing unprecedented demand. In addition, the consequences of global heating worldwide are increasingly catastrophic. There are growing numbers of climate and conflict refugees. Is this business as usual for an eternally troubled planet? Or does humanity now stand on the brink of really cataclysmic change?
Janet Philips was an editor in ELT Dictionaries for many years.