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Merriam-Webster sees increased usage of doomsurfing and doomscrolling but the terms haven’t met the criteria for being added to the dictionary yet. (Photo by Tim Boyle / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP) (AFP)
Merriam-Webster sees increased usage of doomsurfing and doomscrolling but the terms haven’t met the criteria for being added to the dictionary yet. (Photo by Tim Boyle / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP) (AFP)

Coronavirus may bring 2 new words to dictionary - doomsurfing, doomscrolling

  • Merriam-Webster added doomsurfing and doomscrolling in its “words we’re watching” blog
  • The new terms refer to the tendency to continue to surf through bad news, even if the news is depressing

NEW DELHI: If you’ve been staying up late every night scrolling through an endless barrage of depressing news on your phone, there’s a word for that. Actually two.

On April 24, Merriam-Webster added doomsurfing and doomscrolling in its “words we’re watching" blog. The addition means Webster sees increased usage of the words but the terms haven’t met its criteria for being added to the dictionary yet.

“Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing," Webster says in its blog. While the dictionary maker may still be “watching" the words, social media is already filled with it.

According to Google Trends, interest in the word has mostly been from the United States (US) in the last 90 days, but things pick up quickly on the Internet. On June 6, Twitter user Lalit Singh tweeted from Gurugram, in the National Capital Region (NCR) that he had learned two new words — doomsurfing and doomscrolling. Rajeev Sharma, founder of digital consultancy firm Awrizon, also used doomsurfing in a tweet on the same day.

“Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back," the Merriam-Webster article adds.

While the usage of the wordhas picked up due to the pandemic, the origin of the words dates back to 2018. Doomscrolling appeared in a Twitter post back in 2018. The person who used it has a mere 78 followers till date and the post itself has only two retweets and seven likes.

Quartz’s Global Finance and Economics reporter, Karen K. Ho is amongst the two who retweeted the post. Ho was cited by Webster for popularizing the word and she retweeted it to point to the real source. Ho has been using the words routinely, to push people to stop doomsurfing and depressing themselves.

New York Times columnist, Kevin Roose, had used the word doomsurfing in an article on March 24 as well, while Yale Medicine’s Kathy Katella used it in another on April 13. “If you are doomsurfing, it may be time to take a step back and ask yourself what you really need to know," she wrote.

The words aren’t nearly ubiquitous enough as ‘asymptomatic’ or ‘lockdowns’, two other words that covid-19 added to our vocabularies. According to Google’s Search Trends, searches for ‘lockdown 4.0’ spiked by 3150% in May in India alone. The country has also been searching for ‘vaccine’, which is the top trending word for May in India with a spike of 190% in May.

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