From ‘boomer doomer’ to ‘covidiot’, ‘cozza’ and ‘rona’, Amanda Laugesen outlines how the coronavirus crisis is reshaping our language and #isolife.
The Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped Australia in many ways, with many effects, especially the economic ones yet to play out. The team at the Australian National Dictionary Centre at ANU has been tracking the many terms relating to the pandemic and its effects over the course of 2020. At the time of writing, we have collected over 400 terms in our database.
Some of these are words have quickly become part of our lexicon, such as PPE, for ‘personal protective equipment’; lockdown; panic buying; and social distancing (or, if we prefer, physical distancing). Phrases such as flatten the curve, easing restrictions, hard border closure, herd immunity, drive-through testing, school closure, and transmission rate have increased the jargon that is a part of our everyday lives.
Other words and expressions are the product of social media, something that has become indispensable as a way to distract ourselves and remain part of the community, especially for those of us in isolation: boomer doomer, a meme showing how Covid-19 represents a threat to the baby boomer generation; covidiot, a blend of covid and idiot used as a hashtag on social media to refer to someone doing something stupid to put people at risk; and a variety of Aussie nicknames for the virus from cozza to rona. Some people have taken to doomscrolling – endlessly reading bad news – and are no doubt coming to suffer apocalypse fatigue as a result.
Another trend in Australia has been the frequent invocation of ‘Australianness’ in the language around the crisis. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has invoked the Anzac spirit and Team Australia in discussing responses to the pandemic. But, there has also been a global wave of coronavirus sceptics with local manifestations. This has generated its own lexicon, such as coronahoax, anti-apper and anti-masker.
The social impacts of the pandemic are starting to be talked about, along with the economic impacts. Concern has been expressed about Generation C and their economic prospects; there has also been much discussion about the disproportionate impact of the economic situation for women, and so discussion of a pink recession. These are the kind of terms we will continue to look for as we move towards the road out.
Our language has undoubtedly been impacted by the virus, and some of these terms will certainly stick in our memories, if not in our lexicon, in the years to come.