A year of extraordinary upheaval, from the war in Ukraine to catastrophic natural disasters, AFP looks at some of the words and phrases that have defined 2022.
With the war in Ukraine and increasingly strident threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the spectre of nuclear warfare is stalking the globe for the first time in decades. “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis” in 1962, US President Joe Biden warned in October. Experts warned of the most dangerous situation they can remember, with fears not limited to Russia: North Korean nuclear sabre-rattling has reached new heights, with the world bracing for a first nuclear test since 2017.
At 6:30 pm on September 8, Buckingham Palace announced that Queen Elizabeth had died, bringing to an end the longest reign in British history and sending shock waves around the world. For 10 days, Britons paid respects to the only monarch most had known, following a carefully choreographed series of ceremonies. The programme of events, famously codenamed “London Bridge”, set out in minute detail every aspect of the protocol — down to BBC presenters wearing black ties. In the event, she died in Scotland, meaning special provisions came into force — Operation Unicorn.
Loss and Damage
World leaders and negotiators descended on the Egyptian Red Sea port of Sharm el-Sheikh for the latest United Nations summit (COP27) on tackling climate change. After a fractious summit, widely seen as poorly organised, a deal was clinched on a fund for “loss and damage” to help vulnerable countries cope with the devastating impacts of climate change. Behind the institutional-sounding name lies destruction for millions in the developing world. The COP summit was hailed as historic but many voiced anger over a lack of ambition on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Woman. Life. Freedom
The chant screamed by protesters in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman arrested by the Tehran morality police. Protesters have burned posters of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and women have appeared in public without headscarves, in scenes scarcely imaginable before the uprising. The demonstrations have lasted three months and appear to pose an existential challenge to the 43-year rule of the clerical regime.
The tiny blue tick (it’s actually white on a blue background), which certifies users on Twitter, became a symbol of the chaos engulfing the social media platform in the wake of its $44-billion takeover by Elon Musk. The mercurial Tesla boss announced that anyone wanting the coveted blue tick would have to stump up eight dollars, only to scrap the plan hours later. A month on from the takeover, Twitter’s future remains up in the air, with thousands of staff laid off, advertisers leaving, and its “free speech” platform hugely uncertain.
Roe v. Wade
In an historic ruling, the conservative-dominated US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision that enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion. The Supreme Court ruled that individual states could restrict or ban the procedure -– a decision seized upon by several right-leaning states. Protests erupted instantly in Washington and elsewhere, showing how divisive the topic remains in the United States. The overturning of “Roe v. Wade” became a critical battle in the US mid-terms, in which candidates in favour of abortion rights won several victories.
One of the “words of the year” in Britain and Australia, the phrase refers to doing the bare minimum at work, either as a protest against your employer or to improve your work-life balance. The trend, which has sparked debate about overwork, especially in the United States, appears to have surfaced first in a TikTok post in July. “You’re not outright quitting your job but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” said the post which went viral, drawing nearly a half-million likes.
As Liz Truss approached the end of her chaotic and short-lived tenure as British prime minister, the Economist weekly mused that her effective period in office had been “roughly the shelf-life of a lettuce”. The tabloid Daily Star leapt on the idea, launching a live web cam featuring said vegetable -– complete with googly eyes — next to a picture of the hapless Truss. Her premiership lasted just 44 days and featured a mini-budget that collapsed the markets and generated extraordinary political upheaval. In the end, the lettuce won.
Environmental protesters seeking to draw attention to the role of fossil fuel consumption in the climate crisis hurled tomato soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” painting at London’s National Gallery in October, touching off a series of similar stunts. Since then, activists have smothered mashed potato on Claude Monet and glued themselves to works by Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and Johannes Vermeer. For some, the campaigners are heroes bravely drawing attention to the climate emergency. For others, the attacks are counterproductive and lose force by becoming commonplace.
Protests erupted in China, initially over Covid restrictions but later widening to broader political grievances, posing the greatest threat to the Beijing authorities since 1989. The demonstrations became known in some quarters as the “A4” protests as protesters held up blank A4-sized sheets of white paper in a sign of solidarity and a nod to the lack of free speech in China.