Elephant in the zoom, Le Creuset wrist, and cough-shaming: how Covid lingo is creeping into our every day language

by Pisana Ferrari – cApStAn Ambassador to the Global Village

Neologisms related to the coronavirus pandemic are spreading so fast that it is hard to keep up and our article on this topic  of March 25 is already out of date! We have picked up some new terms here and there from different sources in English, French, Dutch and Italian, and put these together for an update. Translated back into English these new terms not only yield amusing results but provide interesting insights into how the pandemic has affected our ways of working, living and interacting with other people. Humour, as is often the case in difficult times such as our current ones, can serve as a way for people to cope. Here are a few examples – for the foreign terms one needs to consider that they may resonate in unique social-cultural ways in the countries where they come from and cannot be fully rendered by translation.

Elephant in the zoom: the glaring issue during a videoconferencing call than nobody feels able to mention, a word play on “elephant in the room”

Coronacoaster: ups and downs in mood during the pandemic, as in “an emotional coronacoaster”

Le Creuset wrist:  the term refers to an aching arm after taking one’s best saucepans (Le Creuset is a very well known French brand) outside for the “Clap for Carers” moment

Zoomposium: an online Zoom symposium

Doughverkill: annoyance at one’s social media feed being dominated by photos and posts about home-made sourdough and bread

Bored-eaux: a word play on Bordeaux (French wine), wine consumed when bored during confinement 

Anti-socialdistancing: taking the excuse of social distancing to avoid people that one finds irritating

Fattening the curve: a word play on the new public health mantra, “flattening the curve”, referencing the fact that people are putting on weight during confinement

“Straatschaamte” – streetshame (Dutch): the embarrassment someone experiences when being out for urgently necessary errands during lockdown

“Anderhalvemetereconomie” – six-feet-economy (Dutch): an economy developed around the idea of having to avoid spreading coronavirus

“Hoestschaamte” – cough-shaming  (Dutch): the anxiety one may experience about triggering a panic among the people nearby when making a coughing sound 

“Balkonversatie” – balcony chat  (Dutch): chatting with one’s balcony neighbours, porte-manteau word of balkon (balcony) and conversatie (conversation, chat)

“Huidhonger” – skin hunger (Dutch) a longing for human contact while in isolation

“Paniekwinkelen” – panic shopping (Dutch)shopping where you blindly buy products because you think they will be sold out soon or the store will be closed

“Immobesité” – corona obesity (French): putting on weight during confinement on account of not doing any physical activity (immobilité)

“Coronabdos” – corona abs (French): exercises for abdominals, abdos in French (short for abdominaux)

“Skypéros” – skype aperitifs (French): portemanteau of skype and apéro, French for aperitif

“Homezage” – corona tan” (French): portemanteau of home and bronzage, French for tan)

“Cretinavirus” – corona idiot (Italian): equivalent to covidiot in English, someone who ignores lockdown measures

Aperivirus” – virus aperitif (Italian): an aperitif one drinks during the pandemic

Visuals: Graphillus/Milan

If you have any other coronavirus words and phrases to add to our compilation please write to pisana.ferrari@capstan.be

You can find more cApStAn articles about the evolution of language and linguistic curiosities at this link

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  • “Parlez-vous corona? Brush up your lockdown lingo”, Michael Hogan, Press Reader, originally published in the Sunday Telegraph, April 19, 2020
  • “Skin-hunger and coronajerks: The Dutch are inventing new words to describe the impact of the virus”, Zachary B. Wolf, Fox40, May 5, 2020
  • “Coronawoordenboek”, Ton den Boon, Lexiton Taalbank, March 4, 2020
  • “Les mots de la pandémie : du lard et du Ricard, l’hédonisme au temps du coronavirus”, Courrier International, April 20, 2020
  • «Lundimanche», «apérue», «coronabdos»… les nouveaux mots du confinement”, William Audureau, Le Monde, April 27
  • “Coronavirus, da coronadating a furbetto del contagio, tutti i neologismi di questa settimana”, Paolo Fallai, Corriere della Sera, March 23, 2020 –
  • “Il Tema: In margine a un’epidemia: risvolti linguistici di un virus – II puntata”, Accademia della Crusca, April 2, 2020