Sõnaus new words contest receives 4,000 proposals

Sõnaus 2020 logo. Source: ERR

The Sõnaus contest for new digital words in Estonian produced a total of 3,866 proposals from 1,191 people and 41 groups over three and a half weeks. That is almost double the yield of the first Sõnaus contest from a decade ago.

The most popular neologism was "lühik" (that roughly translates as shorty – ed.) that was proposed 28 times as a translation of the English word "shortcut." The latter was the most popular English word people tried to find a match for, with a total of 159 proposals. Other Estonian equivalents proposed included "kirt," "kärmik," "lühe," "otsek," and "õgvik," the Vabamu Museum communicated.

A lot of translations of the verb "to chat" were proposed for a total of 152, with "nestlema," "lobama," (tattle) "sõrmlema" (finger) or "tekstima" (text) suggested. "Distance learning" got 126 suggestions that included "hajakool" (scatterschool), "sildõpe," (bridge learning) "kodukool," (homeschool) "iseõpe," (self-study) "pereõpe" (family study) and "kõpe."

Sõnaus project manager Ede Tamkivi said it is difficult to forecast which new words will be adopted. "Fun and palatable words that instantly create connections in people's minds and are easy to remember definitely have more potential."

The contest drew language enthusiasts of all ages, with the youngest participant just two years of age (with help from a parent) and the oldest 88. Young people between the ages of 12 and 18 were the most active participants, while 30-40-year-olds were the most productive, with some proposing over 100 new words.

Thirty-six basic and high schools proposed a total of 392 words. Students of grades 4-8 of the Tartu Hansa School were the most diligent, sending in 50 words with help from teacher Lea Sokman. Students of the small Kolga, Neeme, Palivere and Tootsi schools were also active. "I would like to send special thanks to teachers who took up the challenge and urged their students to contribute to the modernization of our language," Tamkivi added.

Before the judges choose the winning words, people can pick their own favorites by visiting the Sõnaus Facebook page starting on December 2.

The winning words will be declared on December 8, on the 140th birth anniversary of the founder of the Estonian language innovation movement Johannes Aavik, and their authors decorated.

The Sõnaus contest is organized by the Vabamu Museum and the Office of the President and forms a part of Estonia's digital culture year. Vabamu plans to make the contest an annual event, meaning that people who did not manage to get a proposal in this year can do so next year.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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