Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
The subheading reads, ‘The definitive guide to the year the world turned to shit’, with which most of the population would heartily agree.
In 536, due to a volcano erupting in Iceland, it is supposed, the earth was in darkness for 18 months. Crops failed. Many died. This catastrophe was followed by the plague. 2020 may very well have surpassed this horror in the Dark Ages, Knight maintains.
So many events have crowded our senses in these 11 months so far that many memories have faded or vanished. The Dictionary jogs our minds and the moments flash into consciousness.
Brexit, paling into insignificance, actually moved into the British form of self-isolation in January. The tragic death of Kobe Bryant, the gifted basketballer, in a helicopter accident, fleetingly got the world’s attention; but, for Australians, the dominant news for months from August 2019, until well into the year 2020, were the bushfires of our Black Summer. 18,000,000 hectares burned, 3,000 homes were destroyed and 28 people died. The terrifying walls of flame horrified the world.
COVID-19 19 took over the news media for most of 2020 so it is shocking to recall that those devastating fires were part of early 2020, and now, already, the season had begun. Fraser Island is no longer the unspoiled jewel in the heritage-listed crown.
An unexpected benefit this year is the cessation of war in the strife-torn Syria, Yemen, and Libya, but sadly it will only be temporary.
One entry tells of the Village Cap D’Agde, the largest nudist camp in the world, in the South of France. Its overall infection rate was a staggering 30% and there were 150 positive results to testing for COVID-19 19.
Super-Spreader was a novel term introduced to describe a person infected by the virus who then transmitted it to many others. Choirs fostered this, especially in the US.
This year saw the flourishing of the Sticker industry reminding everyone everywhere of the importance of distancing.
Spikes are listed as the outer layer of the virus but also the outrageous rise in cost of hand sanitiser in this year of COVID-19.
Puzzles and the demand for them caused several outages on Amazon, but Dominic Knight suggests a good brain teaser is attempting to explain the accidental arrival as Prime Minister of Scott Morrison with his thumping majority. Then his rapidly transforming from bushfire pariah to pandemic hero.
It is no surprise to learn that Dominic Knight was a founding member of The Chaser with its occasional teetering on the edge of acceptable comedy, ever ready to be egregiously funny.
His entries on Putin, Trump and, hilariously, Boris Johnson (who beat Corbin in the polls in a landslide, mostly because the Labour leader had the charisma of a ‘pool noodle’.) His entries for them are clever and free of cruelty. He can denigrate these leaders with good-natured wit.
As well as jogging the memory, the Dictionary offers items that are fresh or informative.
There are alarming statistics concerning the delay in informing the world, which China allowed, when it had knowledge of the virus in December. The number of cases world-wide may have been reduced by 95% if proper steps had been taken then.
COVID-19 influenced so many aspects of life. Pets grew in importance, home delivery of food became essential for many, Tesla’s website crashed because of demand for their short shorts. At $69.00 they were the only Tesla item that most could afford. None can forget the toilet paper battles, the long queues at Centrelink, the lonely funerals and the sad isolation in the ICUs.
‘Clapping’ is an entry. For weeks, every day, people all over Britain applauded the brave health workers. A good note on which to stop the list.
In the media, Dominic Knight is adept at both the serious and the frivolous. In assembling this dictionary, he has a mixture of both. It is comprehensive and immensely entertaining, a worthy souvenir of a year when we discovered so much about human behaviour, and how to survive a strange new world. He offers the best solution. Laughter.
The 2020 Dictionary
by Dominic Knight
Allen & Unwin
$29.99 274 pages