Novel Vocabulary for the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Old words can have very different meanings during a time of drastic change.

Posted Apr 03, 2020

 Slidebot, used with permission
Source: Slidebot, used with permission

The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed the way we think, feel, and behave. The apocalypse has spawned new words to describe familiar behaviors and changed the meaning of traditional terms we are accustomed to using without thinking. Here are just a few of the words that reflect how our culture is evolving: 

  • Flatten the curve: A graphical metaphor designed to help low-knowledge politicians assure people that statistics are the basis for their uncertainty.  
  • Social distancing: A socially acceptable way to avoid the people who annoyed us before coronavirus was a thing. 
  • Shelter in place: A dysfunctional use of reverse psychology that encourages people to want to go out during times when they are usually couch-bound or asleep.
  • Essential needs: A measure of shopping behavior based on risk tolerance for infection divided by the number of Twinkies or Doritos in your pantry.
  • Essential jobs: Positions assumed by individuals who are typically ignored during more prosperous and happy times.
  • Office space: An avoidable expense whereby executives now recognize that employees can freely gossip without being on company premises. 
  • WFH (work from home): An abbreviation describing the process of logging on to a company server or computer while getting paid for hanging out with your family, friends, or pets.
  • Isolation: The process of connecting with the external world only via your television or computer for the purpose of generating feelings of gratitude, camaraderie, or depression
  • Coworker: Any living organism present during your income-generating hours, usually determined by the ability to make noise or walk on four legs. 
  • Drug approval standards: The process of making health changing decisions based on intuition.
  • 401(k): On the way to becoming 201(k), a statutory savings program for laborers struggling to independently save and invest. See “dwindling asset.”
  • Tiger King: A hugely popular Netflix series about a drug-addicted criminal that would go unnoticed if people weren’t confined to their couches. 
  • Furlough: A term invented by employers to help employees feel valued during the virus crisis with the intent of discouraging job searches until a closure announcement is made.
  • Small business: Any business entity not being bailed out by the U.S. government.

Please add to the comments section if you can think of a few more words—and stay safe!