14 words we learned in 2020 that helped define the year

  • From Animal Crossing to doomscrolling and maskne, these are the words we learned last year - for better or for worse
  • Remember the toilet paper shortage and the time before Covidiots?
Associated PressYP Team |

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Remember the great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020?

The past year has been a hellish, eye-opening yet sometimes inspiring one for people everywhere around the world. (Aren’t you so happy it’s over?)

So much happened that defined 2020, including a pandemic that has killed more than 1.7 million people, so let’s take a look at the words we heard on our news feed:

Animal Crossing

A highly addictive video game that has been around for years, was taken up by many as a quarantine activity. You can invite friends over, like it used to be in the before-times.

2020 in review: What happened in Hong Kong?


This may be the most significant word we learned this year. The common cold and some familiar flus, we learned, are coronaviruses. But this new virus became known as THE coronavirus. And the word turned out to mean grief as we watched our loved ones suffer and missed our mates at school. It meant not being able to hug our friends and family. It meant people losing their jobs. As we look forward to 2021, we hope vaccines will help end the pandemic and turn the virus into just a coronavirus.


Luckily we don’t have many covidiots in Hong Kong. These are people who refuse to wear masks, question the science and wonder, loudly, whether or not the pandemic is all a hoax. US President Donald Trump is their king.


Coined by Quartz reporter Karen Ho, doomscrolling is when you endlessly browse social media feeds. It’s like binge-watching TV, but instead of enjoying a show, you spend hours devouring bad news. It happens when you wake up and just before bed. Doomscrolling became especially relevant in 2020 as we often found ourselves with nothing to do other than to scroll.

We're all guilty of doomscrolling.

Furlough [fur low]/unpaid leave

Countries faced record unemployment this year. Many businesses, including airlines and many restaurants, introduced worker furloughs, or unpaid leave, for the first time. For some, furloughs were worse than losing their jobs: Workers remain employed but they aren’t allowed to work or earn any pay. Furloughs can be short, like a week, or can last for months.


While regular teens might struggle with acne, even folks not in their teens struggled with skin problems which arose from wearing masks so often.

How to motivate yourself in 2021

Murder hornets

When we thought the year couldn’t get any crazier, people in the US had a hysterical reaction to the arrival of an Asian species of hornet, arrived. They renamed them murder hornets! Yes, these hornets can be deadly to people, as mainlanders will tell you. They showed up on social media in May.


This is probably the most important acronym of the year! Personal protective equipment includes all the gear health care workers, first responders and other essential employees wear to stay safe from the virus. This includes face masks, gloves and face shields.

Quarantine [kwa run teen]

Originally, it referred to the 40 days that ships thought to be carrying disease in 17th-century Italy had to be isolated. Now, the pandemic turned that isolation into weeks of waiting for the pandemic to end. It means social distancing,fewer non-essential shopping trips and wearing face masks.

The best strange stories of 2020


We’re doing it all virtually and remotely. Learning remotely, working remotely, going to the doctor remotely, partying with friends remotely and seeing loved ones for the holidays remotely all became part of the norm.

Social distancing

Do you remember hugging your friends? To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve been told to stay apart. This means standing 6 feet in canteens and even exams.

We have to say, we don't HATE the elbow bump.

Toilet paper shortage

As people prepared to stay home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, it seems we misunderstood what staying home actually meant and decided to scoop up all the toilet paper. Grocery store aisles once full of toilet paper, bleach wipes and hand sanitizer were bare. Things were so bad that there was a toilet paper robbery! Stores soon limited how much toilet paper a person could buy and supplies eventually got back to normal.

The TV we’re looking forward to in 2021

Two boxes, thanks

At the start of the outbreak there was a huge mask shortage in the 852. Smart HongKongers ordering online would just put “two boxes, thanks”.


For many adults, the concept of “working from home” on an almost-permanent basis was new as many government and business offices, and many businesses shut down. Students, had to have online lessons, which meant your grannie instead of your teacher would interrupt you. It also meant having Mom and or Dad at home, and flats in Hong Kong seemed to shrink overnight.

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