The Language of Coronavirus

We have a whole new vocabulary these days.

Our quaranteams meet in Zoom Rooms.

We are quarancooking and drinking quarantini’s.

We’re watching a little quarantinement and listening to a few quarantunes.

We’re even showing our roots for solidarity.

There are a lot of new terms thanks to the coronavirus. Some have come naturally, as an outgrowth of our collective humor (warped though it may be). Others have come from the scientists and health professionals so valiantly trying to fight an unknown, untested disease. Still more have come from government, the news media, and business leaders.

Here’s just a few that are notable enough to likely stay with us:

Containment, Testing, Mitigation, and Recovery: These words are strung together as a mantra for those at the forefront of prevention. They are the new steps as we struggle to make sense of what has happened to the world, and will probably go beyond health and government to be applied to business practices as more attention shifts to the economy.

Essential business vs core business: This showed us that word choice is important. Jobs in general are essential—if not, those positions get eliminated during “right-sizings.” However, those jobs that are essential to our health, our safety, and our nourishment have risen to the top.

Social distance vs physical distance: Physical distance seems to be winning, as it ultimately makes more sense. But the idea of social distancing isn’t going away—as people begin to explore the reasons for distancing…and it’s not always for physical health.

Adaptation: We refer to the 2009 Recession in all caps now, similar to The Great Depression. The jury is still out on whether this will be The Pandemic of 2020, The Great Adaptation, or simply the COVID Era, but the essence of the event is our ability to adapt. That’s what the books will be written about; that’s what we’ll remember. We adjusted to fit the need, and, in the process, discovered some innovation that will stay with us.

Ultimate Care Centers: These are the pop-up hospitals that were prepared in good faith, not knowing what might be required in a pandemic. It’s probable that the term will continue in health circles, switching to the next big need.

#stayathome: Various forms of this hashtag will be haunting our social media memories for years.

WFH: Working From Home, for those moms out there who tend to get confused about social media abbreviations with an “F” in them.

Contactless delivery: Restaurants started talking about this the moment they had to close their dining rooms and, at the same time, assure their guests that it was safe to order food. Even when it’s not about the contact as much, it’s going to be about the use of technology and the ability to not have to talk to a human, sign for a receipt, or engage socially. Hermits of the world are united around this one.

Self-quarantine, self-care, and DIY: In other words, the coronavirus has brought recognition that we can make responsible decisions. We can self-quarantine with no official checking up to see if we lasted 14 days. We can recognize when we need some attention, and order our own essential oils or our own chocolate bars, thank you very much. And DIY was suddenly revived, as we had to make it or fix it without outside help.

Mindful packaging: One interesting thing coming out of it all is the attention to sustainable packaging and food waste. Some would say it’s about time.

Virtual strider: Had to include this as an example of everything moving online—proms, weddings, and more. This one was specifically mentioned as part of a walk-a-thon fundraiser to address pancreatic cancer. Now that we’ve realized we can do more of this without blocking streets, putting up posters, or braving the weather, well, who knows.

Elder hours: I kid you not—I know a 60-year-old couple who were carded at the door of a grocery store. Truth is, however, this has become a convenience for many Baby Boomers, let alone Seniors, and they may ask for it to remain simply to give them some healthy space.

Right to try: The ability for terminally ill patients to access experimental drugs 

Flattening the curve: I’m tempted to consider this the new diet, after everyone has put on the Corona 15, but let’s just say we all understand its nuances by now.

Mental distancing: This is all about taking a break from the coronavirus news. Which means mental health. See self-care, above.

You get the point. Some of the terms are light-hearted, like this one:

Corronials: We’ve been calling the next generation Gen Alpha…but maybe we need to rethink part of that generational timeline…

Others are more serious, like these:

Convalescent plasma: Tied to antibodies and the new onslaught of medical research that will come out of all this.

It all means there is more to come. More news, more discussion, more debate, more controversy, more new terms, and more innovation as a result. Keep your search engines running as the terms accumulate, because this new language is universal. And it’s not going away.