Like other major events of the past, Covid-19 has spawned a lexicon all of its own. Much of it was trailed by previous events – ‘self-isolation’ dates back a century or more, when it referred to such dangers as the flu and leprosy. ‘Quarantine’ began during the time of the Black Death, when crews of ships arriving in Venice had to wait before coming on shore. The minimum number of days required was 40, and the period was known in Venetian dialect as quarantena, from quaranta, ‘40’.
But there have been many new additions to the dictionary that have been fuelled by the pandemic. ‘WFH (working from home)’ is now in the Oxford Dictionaries, as are ‘hot zone’, ‘flatten the curve’, ‘PPE’ and ‘contact tracing’.
Then there are some lighter-hearted expressions, an effort to lift our sombre mood. A ‘covidiot’ is someone who wilfully flouts the rules of social distancing. A ‘quarantini’ is an experimental cocktail made from ingredients found at the back of the cupboard, and ‘Covid-15’ is the 15 pounds gained from nervously eating our way through the fridge. ‘Doughverkill’ is the new way of describing the surfeit of pictures posted on social media of home-baked sourdough, while a ‘dinfluencer’ is someone who similarly photographs every supper created from the remnants of their lockdown larder.
The writer Michael Hogan has noted some new ones on the list. ‘Bored-eaux’ is the wine drunk when there’s nothing better to do, while ‘co-runner virus’ is the spread of the infection by heavily-panting runners who leave hundreds of droplets in their wake.
It’s hard to say whether any will last the course, but as we ride the coronacoaster, the only certainty is that there will be more to come.