What ‘Shrinkflation,’ ‘Quiet Quitting’ and Other 2022 Buzzwords Mean

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Like pretty much all the years before it, 2022 has been a wild one — and with it has come a fleet of catchy neologisms. You may not find all of these words and phrases in the dictionary, but they’re now a crucial part of our vocabulary. 

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What are some of the top buzzwords of 2022 so far and what do they mean?  

Shrinkflation 

We all know about inflation, but what is “shrinkflation”? It’s actually a kind of side effect of inflation. Shrinkflation is the practice by companies of reducing or shrinking a retail item while raising the price. The word is believed to have been coined by British economist Pippa Malmgren. According to a recent survey published by MorningConsult, 64% of adults are worried about shrinkflation. 

The Great Resignation 

The pandemic shifted employee values, such that many began prioritizing flexibility and remote work options. This behavioral phenomenon triggered “The Great Resignation,” which has seen droves of Americans quit their jobs in pursuit of jobs better suited to their needs. The phrase was first used by Prof. Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University during a Bloomberg interview in May 2021. 

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Quiet Quitting 

“Quiet quitting” became a buzzword when it appeared in a TikTok video posted by user Brian Creely back in March. The exact definition of quiet quitting is under debate. Some think it means a worker simply stops doing the job or silently drifts off without officially giving notice. More commonly, quiet quitting is believed to occur when an employee ceases to go the extra mile for the job, instead completing only the bare minimum of what they’re hired to do — an anomaly in our work-obsessed culture. 

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Quiet Firing 

In addition to quiet quitting, there is also “quiet firing.” This happens when an employer lets go of or pushes out an employee without being direct or even professional about it. Quiet firing could look like a manager edging an employee by, say, reducing hours or even entirely ignoring them. A recent LinkedIn News poll found that 48% of employees have observed quiet firing in their workplace, while 35% have had it happen to them. 

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Metaverse 

These days it’s all “metaverse” this and “metaverse” that. But what does the word even mean? Coined by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel “Crash,” the metaverse is is a rather complicated concept. To put it simply, it’s the perceived future of the internet, where consumers interact with one another — and with brands — in a virtual reality-like setting. It’s no coincidence that Facebook changed its name to Meta in 2021.  

NFT

Though the term and the concept of NFT (which stands for “non-fungible token”) wasn’t born in 2022, it saw plenty of steam this year. An NFT is a cryptographic asset that lives on a blockchain and sports an original, non-duplicable identification code and various metadata that make it wholly unique. Many artists are making NFTs and selling them to be housed on the — you guessed it — metaverse. 

Techlash 

Coined by the publication The Economist, “techlash” describes the modern phenomenon of increasing anger toward the looming tech giants of society — many of whom saw substantial financial gains during the height of the pandemic. The Macmillan dictionary defines techlash as “a strong reaction against the major technology companies, as a result of concerns about their power, users’ privacy, the possibility of political manipulation, etc.”

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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