words matter

The COVID-19 Buzz Words

Every year, new words which emulate what is happening in society enter the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Some are catchy and inevitably become the norm in everyday conversations. Others are like nails on a chalkboard; silly, nonsensical words that become tiresome to hear.

In 1960, the buzz words ‘trendsetting’ and ‘junk food’ entered our vocabulary. Hard to understand how anyone discussed at least one weekly meal without saying ‘junk food’, but they did it. Here’s one all the cool kids use even today, ‘playlist’. This versatile word was first spoken in 1972, the same year that ‘retro’ was born. The 80’s gave us ‘couch potato’ and ‘first world problem’, both applicable throughout the years. Last year’s words included ‘vacay’ and ‘fabulosity’. And I bet ‘fabulosity’ has not been uttered one time this year.

What Covid-19 ‘buzz words’ will come out of the year 2020?

The year is young, and we are amid a global pandemic so it could potentially be a banner year for the dictionary. Some of the terms we are using to describe our current situation are not new, though they’ve certainly taken on new meaning. If you had asked me what ‘social distancing’ meant way back in February, I would have responded, in Jeopardy form, with: “What is my preferred style of living?” And I would have won the million-dollar question on that one. Whereas ‘social distancing’ used to mean being a homebody to me, it is now our primary tool we use to fight this virus in front of us.

‘Respiratory droplets’. Say that ten times without gagging. Or not. Let’s just file that one right along with “moist” and forget it even exists. How about ‘self-quarantine’? Did you ever imagine as you were opening your Christmas presents just a short few months ago that the words ‘self-quarantine’ would roll off your tongue in March? It’s kind of absurd if you think about it. Never in our lifetime did we imagine the resurrection of the family dinner, puzzles, and the extinction of toilet paper were right around the corner.

According to Merriam-Webster, ‘self-quarantine’ is defined as this: To refrain from any contact with other individuals for a period of time (such as two weeks) during the outbreak of a contagious disease usually by remaining in one’s home and limiting contact with family members. Not that I needed to explain that to any of you. ‘Self-quarantine’ is both a noun and a verb. It is the verb tense that is puzzling to some people. In case you still haven’t received the message – – you must act to “self-quarantine,” as in stay home, for all the ninnies in the back.

And still more…

"Distance Learning"
“Distance Learning”

And then there is ‘distance learning.’ Distance learning…if you say it backwards it makes more sense. ‘Learning distance’ is what we are experiencing in my home. Learning distance occurs when teachers who are used to having access to their students in an intimate setting feel the reins of instructional control slip through their hands. The separation becomes a bit more distinct every day as students ignore emails and dodge deadlines. The end of this story goes like this: Mom intervened, put the kid on a schedule, checked in with all of the teachers, pleaded to only be informed of required video meetings foregoing anything deemed optional, and “distance learning” became somewhat doable. Okay, it is a work in progress, but I applaud the process that has been put in place for our students.

‘Zoom’. Whereas ‘zoom’ used to mean ‘to move or travel quickly,’ it now means to sit tight, mute your devices and look into the camera as you virtually attend school, work and, now, life.

Though I’m not sure of what will come in the next few months, I am quite sure we will find new and interesting combinations of consonants and vowels to adequately give it description. Until then, I say we use a lot of four-letter buzz words to describe this situation, including, but not limited to, I ‘love’ you all, and with a little ‘luck,’ we will be ‘fine.’ Also…. ‘Stay the f%#k home.’

And here’s another cool story from Jodi Schwarzenbach!

Photos courtesy of Merriam-Webster Dictionary Facebook page and Deposit Photos.

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