On Covidology: Language in pandemic days

In a recent episode of  CBC’s show, “Under the Influence,” called “Marketing in the Time of Covid,” ad man and marketer, Terry O’Reilly, cited the “word of the year” for 2020. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, it was, not surprisingly, “pandemic.”

But O’Reilly’s interest in Covid related language is motivated by his claim that “for marketers, every week” in Covid “is a brand new year,” in which “new opportunities and challenges become apparent.” Covid related language, although often humourous, reflects that double edge of both opportunity and challenge.

Here are some of his favourites:

  • Covidiots” – people who disregard pandemic protocol, such as wearing masks and washing their hands, putting others at risk.
  • Zoom party”—the online meeting platform has become the software of people’s lives, including their means of communicating socially and personally, while displaying images of their and their respondents’ heads and shoulders.
  • Quarantini” – the term given to alcoholic drinks (especially martinis), shared with others during a Zoom call.
  • Locktail” – similarly, alcoholic drinks people turn to, to cope with  Covid lockdown periods.
  • Drivecation”—a holiday taken in your motorhome, parked in your own driveway, since travel out of one’s province (and certainly air travel) is prohibited or restricted.
  • Covid 19” – pounds people have gained over the quarantine period, digesting homemade sourdough bread.
  • Blursday” – confusion as to which day of the week it is, due to pandemic chaos and work-at-home scheduling.
  • Zumped” – for the unlucky in love, who get “dumped” over Zoom (not in person).
  • Covidantibuddies” – former friends who get on each others’ nerves after experiencing isolation time together.

and . . . .

Apocaloptimists” – people who believe “it’s bad now but we’ll get back to normal sometime soon.”

O’Reilly comments that “the yearn to feel normal” in Covid times is “overwhelming,” resulting in new interest in golf and outdoor sports activities often ignored in pre-Covid days; and in the popularity of touristy flights that don’t go far but remind us of when we could travel by air.

But he adds of these times: “The changes are breathtaking. . . . . We are all coming face-to-face with things we’ve never seen before.” And therefore the need for these neologisms that blend together familiar words in unfamiliar ways.

Although the distribution of vaccines and the coming end of winter have raised global hopes for recovery, we have been willing (or unwilling) participants in a watershed cultural moment:  As O’Reilly concludes, “Separate worlds can meet, born by the opportunity spawned by pandemic times.”

And now it’s your turn. What worlds have you seen combine, what opportunities have arisen in your pandemic life? Do you have new Covid words of your own?

Please share on my “contact” page. I’d be delighted to hear from you.