The mushrooming popularity of watching TV serials in concentrated bouts has seen the new verb’s usage explode, according to Collins’s annual survey. Photo: Jamie Grill/Getty Images
By Alison Flood, the Guardian
“Binge-watch” has been named word of the year by Collins, after our relentless consumption of shows such as House of Cards and Breaking Bad led its usage to increase by 200% last year.
Lexicographers at Collins monitor word usage across all media, picking out both new words that are gaining traction with the public, and established words enjoying greater use. “Binge-watch”, which was used in the 1990s in reference to DVDs of complete series, came to prominence in 2010, said Collins, but has “very much come to the fore” in 2015 following a sea change in the way we watch television.
CollinsDictionary.com defines the verb as “to watch a large number of television programmes (especially all the shows from one series) in succession”. According to the publisher, usage of the term is up 200% on 2014. Collins also cited a survey by digital video recording company Tivo, which reported in June this year that 92% of viewers admitted to watching more than three episodes of a series in one day, and 37% had spent a whole weekend watching one show.
“The rise in usage of ‘binge-watch’ is clearly linked to the biggest sea change in our viewing habits since the advent of the video recorder nearly 40 years ago. Due to subscription services such as Netflix or Sky’s NOW TV, or ‘smart’ digital video recorders such as Tivo, fans can watch what they want, when they want, for as long as they want,” said Helen Newstead, head of language content at Collins.
“It’s not uncommon for viewers to binge-watch a whole season of programmes such as House of Cards or Breaking Bad in just a couple of evenings – something that, in the past, would have taken months – then discuss their binge-watching on social media.”
Transgender was the word to see the second greatest increase in usage, up 100% on 2014, said Collins, following the increased exposure of transgender public figures such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, and the presence of trans actors and characters in programmes including Orange Is the New Black, Boy Meets Girl and, soon, EastEnders. Words such as “cisgender”, “misgender” and “Mx” have also been added to Collinsdictionary.com.
Other words to have been “significant” in 2015 include “clean eating”, which Collins defines as “following a diet that contains only natural foods, and is low in sugar, salt, and fat”. “Dadbod” (“an untoned and slightly plump male physique, especially one considered attractive”) and “manspreading” (“a male passenger in a bus or train splaying his legs in a way that denies space to the passenger sitting next to him”) are also in growing currency.
“Shaming”, defined as “attempting to embarrass a person or group by drawing attention to their perceived offence, especially on social media”, has also seen its usage increase substantially since 2014, said Collins.
The dictionary publisher’s top 10 “words of the year” for 2015 also include contactless, Corbynomics, ghosting – to mean ending a relationship by ignoring communications – and swipe, a term made popular by the dating app Tinder, and defined by Collins as “to move a finger across a touchscreen on a mobile phone in order to approve (swipe right) or dismiss (swipe left) an image”.
The words are already included in Collinsdictionary.com, with those that “stand the test of time” to make it into the dictionary’s next print edition, in 2018.
binge-watch (verb): to watch a large number of television programmes (especially all the shows from one series) in succession
clean eating (noun): following a diet that contains only natural foods, and is low in sugar, salt, and fat
contactless (adjective): referring to payments, smart cards, etc that utilise RFID (radio-frequency identity) technology and do not require a PIN or signature from the customer
Corbynomics (noun): the economic policies advocated by the UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
dadbod (noun): an untoned and slightly plump male physique, especially one considered attractive
ghosting (noun): ending a relationship by ignoring all communication from the other person
manspreading (noun): the act or an instance of a male passenger in a bus or train splaying his legs in a way that denies space to the passenger sitting next to him
shaming (noun): attempting to embarrass a person or group by drawing attention to their perceived offence, especially on social media
swipe (verb): to move a finger across a touchscreen on a mobile phone in order to approve (swipe right) or dismiss (swipe left) an image
transgender (adjective): of or relating to a person whose gender identity does not fully correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth