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Words We Didn’t Know We’d Need to Know
“Pandemonium” is not a new word for most of us. But for many, “pandemic” was, until about a year ago. And what a year it has been since. We’ve had to live with all sorts of surprises in the last 13 months, so we adapted. Our language did too.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognize multiple levels of this pandemic. As we’ve had to widen our vocabularies to keep up, we’ve grown by a matter of degrees.
Remember way back, when COVID-19 was just the rumor of an outbreak of something new? Then hearing it had grown to be an epidemic. Now it’s pandemic, all over the globe. Can you call to mind when you were first embarrassed by uttering the redundancy of “global pandemic”?
(To be fair, we have precedents: Spanish flu, MERS, SARS, bird flu, swine flu. Things to look up, for the history buff or the person particular with their words.)
As we adapt, we go creative. Turning nouns into verbs isn’t a new tactic but has gotten a lot of recent use. “Let’s zoom,” since we can’t easily meet for coffee anymore. Or “Teams me” in the virtual office. Then there is everyone’s favorite new saying, “You’re muted.” Let’s not talk about cat filters or Zoombombing.
I suppose we could get technical: coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19. More things to look up. Self-isolation versus quarantine. PPE, personal protective equipment, not to be confused with PPP, the federal government’s paycheck protection program. N95 masks versus KN95. Do not hand out blue capes to super-spreaders. Do clarify the difference between mortality and morbidity. Covid toe. Fomites. R-naught numbers. The list goes on.
Even if we don’t get terribly technical, we have acquired some unusual and interesting word twists. Here are just a few.
Herd immunity. Think of us, mooing and moseying along. Best imagined when in a long queue 6 feet apart from everyone else.
Co-morbidities. I had seriously never thought of my own personal shortcomings in this area as a benefit, before this year.
Wastewater surveillance. An interesting concept, well worth knowing about. Explore more about it.
WFH. Remote. Virtual. Variations on a yearlong theme.
Quaranteaming in the bubble. Slowly we rebuild our community. Is everyone in the bubble abiding by the same rules as me? Are there other bubbles we have to think about, outside of “our” bubble?
Social distancing. This epitome of awkwardness, in tone and words and phrase, is nonetheless sanctioned by the CDC. It seems to work, though it takes me back to my teenage years! “Physical distancing” sounds easier on the ear and imagination.
Now for a lighter touch, note there are even haiku-for-pandemic groups on social media. Here’s one public group from Facebook that’s worth visiting, “Surviving COVID-19 With Haiku.”
A small sampling of the 17-syllable poetry follows, themed around that force of nature:
hope the internet holds up.
despite virus, haiku flows
or, perhaps because…
pandemic begets horror,
Planted peas today…
coronavirus won’t stop
One last little memory jog and bit of irony bundled together. I noticed it the other day when playing with my grandbabies in my bubble. Toddlers’ toys haven’t kept up with the times. Remember when we used to take our temperatures by mouth instead of untouched foreheads?
Finally, here’s my very most favorite phrase of all: “Get the jab!”