'Zhao', or mask in Chinese, chosen as Word of the Year in Zaobao poll

"Zhao" or mask, received about a fifth, or 2,415, of the total votes. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Readers of Lianhe Zaobao have picked the word "zhao", or mask, as the Word of the Year in its annual poll.

The poll, which is in its 10th edition, invited readers of the flagship Chinese newspaper of Singapore Press Holdings to reflect on the past year and choose a Chinese character out of 10 that best represented local and international news in 2020.

The 10 characters were nominated by a panel of five professionals in relevant fields and included words like "zai" (disaster) and "zhai" (housebound).

Close to 10,000 votes were cast between Nov 22 and Dec 7.

"Zhao" received about a fifth, or 2,415, of the total votes, while "wen" (plague) came in second with 2,026 votes. "Feng" (lockdown) was third with 1,431 votes.

Mr Goh Sin Teck, editor of Lianhe Zaobao and Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao, said that he was not surprised that readers chose "zhao" because of the unique circumstances of this year.

He added: "With the pandemic, masks have become an inseparable part of our life, as we breathe and speak through them. Even with a vaccine, wearing masks would still be an important preventive measure for Covid-19."

Ms Han Yong May, NewsHub editor of the Chinese Media Group, said: "The word 'zhao' (mask) carries different meanings. It is a noun that refers to the masks that we wear (kou zhao). It is also a verb that means 'to provide cover and protection' (zhao zhu)."

The winning word was announced on Monday (Dec 14) during an online programme hosted by Ms Lee Lay Ming, NewsHub associate digital platform editor of the Chinese Media Group.

DJs De Ming and Jing Yun from 96.3 Hao FM unveiled the Word of the Year after cycling around downtown Singapore to trace the number 2020 on the map.

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