The new forms of living, working and socializing during the current pandemic have engendered a crop of neologisms
by Pisana Ferrari – cApStAn Ambassador to the Global Village
Tired of the corona infodemic and endless doomscrolling? Take a break, join a covideoparty and chill out with a quarantini …🍸 New words and phrases such as these are popping up practically every day, not to mention the thousands of memes, puns, jokes and videos that people are sharing with each other and on social media. Humour and irony are helping people cope with the dramatic consequences of the current crisis. The new terms reflect how living, working and socializing have changed: some have become buzz phrases and have gone viral. Only time will tell which of these are here to stay and which are passing fads. Interesting quarantimes lie ahead.
Coronavirus, aka …
Coronapocalypse (corona apocalypse) and Coronageddon (corona armageddon) are listed in the Dictionary.com‘s ongoing roundup of new terms. Some people have personified the virus as Miss Rona or Aunt Rona. And la rona (meant as “the rona”) has emerged in some Spanish-language contexts, again according to Dictionary.com. Young people are also playing with rhyme and calling the coronavirus Miley Cyrus (after the famous pop star).
The Leon Florida County has resorted to humour to drive the point home with its citizens and suggests keeping a distance of “at least one large alligator”, and a CNN journalist suggests visualizing “the length of two golden retrievers, the width of an average sedan, a sofa, a dining room table, or the length of a mattress”! We find the term social distancing ambiguous (this is about physical separation, not about social disconnection), and think it should be changed to physical distancing, see our recent article
Flatten the curve has become “the new public health mantra”, reads a recent article in Cordis, EU Commission news. Dr. Howard Markel, a University of Michigan expert who has studied the effects of similar responses to past epidemics, is credited with helping coin the term. It essentially means spreading out the projected number of new cases over a longer period so that people have better access to healthcare. Other more technical and scientific terms such as R-naught and zoonotic are reserved for the few and are not directly relevant to the general population anyway.
Work, home and social life
An amusing article in The Guardian looks at the terms which define the new forms of social life, such as CovideoParty, a virtual video watching party, and quarantini, an alcoholic beverage you can sip if you are in the mood for a locktail. Researchers at King’s College London have collated a number of terms for life and work at home, including corona bae, for the partner you are quarantining with and isodesk, the home workplace during isolation (iso).
How are people coping? The overwhelming flow of information has been renamed infodemic, and doomscrolling is about obsessively consuming depressing pandemic news. Morona defines a person behaving moronically during the pandemic and covidiot someone who ignores lockdown measures. Chances of “hookups” – covidalliances – during lockdowns are as likely as covidivorces, and zumping is when you break up with someone over a video conferencing service. Stockpiling and/or hoarding are known as Hamsterkaufing (adapted from German) and coroanacuts are haircuts carried out at home, especially when less than successful.
Cornteen is an intentional misspelling of quarantine: some people visually pun on it by substituting the corn emoji, 🌽 for the corn- part of the word; others pun on the -teen to mean “teenager.” Other puns include quarantech (apps and gadgets that help while away time indoors) and quarantrends (fashion, food and lifestyle quarantips for those at home), quarantees (promises by governments and companies to people to tide over quarantough times) and quarantrolls (who take to social media to vent spleen about their incarceration).
With the baby boom expected for late 2020/early 2021 the new generation which will step into teenage years in 2033-34 are already being called Quaranteens. But what will this generation be called? Considering the letters X (post-Baby Boomers), Y (Millennials) and Z (post-Millennials) are already taken, the most likely one is C, for Coronials or Covidials.
The case of “Boomer remover”
This new term deserves a special mention as it is causing an uproar on social media. Young people have started calling the coronavirus a Boomer remover, referencing the fact that the virus affects mostly people over 60 (“boomers” are people born in the period 1946-1964). The hashtag #BoomerRemover started trending on Twitter only a few weeks ago but has already appeared in tens of thousands of tweets. Boomers have been under intense scrutiny and criticism from younger generations for some time. OK boomer is another phrase which has being going viral, used to dismiss views of older people, including global warming minimization.
Pandemic phrases one hopes never to hear again 😱
Speaking moistly is listed in Dictionary.com as one of the top “8 Pandemic Words & Phrases People Absolutely Never Want To Hear Again”. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently said that the use of masks can prevent people from breathing or speaking moistly (he himself then added “”Ugh, what a terrible image”). Communal expansion, collective absence, and sociable extension, which remind us we’re in this together and we’re making these sacrifices in the name of being good neighbors and citizens, are also on this list – which, btw, is still open for contributions
If you have any other coronavirus words and phrases to add to our compilation please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find more cApStAn articles about the evolution of language and linguistic curiosities
Read more about cApStAn and what we do
- “New Words We Created Because Of Coronavirus”, Dictionary.com
- “Trending Science: Why has ‘flatten the curve’ become the public health mantra in the global fight against coronavirus?”, News | CORDIS | European Commission
- “Flattening the curve for COVID-19: Expert Howard Markel weighs in”, Michigan Institute for Health Care Policy and Innovation news
- “From Covidiot to doomscrolling: how coronavirus is changing our language”, Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian, April 15, 2020
- “#CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral”, Tony Thorne, King’s College London news, April 16, 2020
- “A certain horrible subset of the internet is calling the coronavirus ‘boomer remover'”, Hillary Hoffower, Business Insider, March 23, 2020
- “Covidivorces, quaranteens and coronials: Why coronavirus puns and neologisms are going viral”, Economic Times, April 9, 2020
- “8 Pandemic Words & Phrases People Absolutely Never Want To Hear Again”, Dictionary.com
- “Know your covidiots from your cove dwellers”, Ben Schott, Bloomberg Opinion, April 3, 2020
Photo credit: Graphillus/Milan