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Why we've created new language for coronavirus

来源:BBC 作者: 时间:2020-05-29 Tag: 点击:


From ‘covidiots’ to ‘quarantine and chill’, the pandemic has led to many terms that help people laugh and commiserate.

The speed of the linguistic change we’re seeing with Covid-19 is unprecedented, says Robert Lawson, a sociolinguist at Birmingham City University. Lawson attributes this to multiple factors: the dizzying pace at which the virus has spread, its dominance in the media and global interconnectivity at a time when social media and remote contact are so important.

Many of the newly popular terms relate to the socially distanced nature of human contact these days, such as ‘virtual happy hour’, ‘covideo party’ and ‘quarantine and chill’. Many use ‘corona’ as a prefix, whether Polish speakers convert ‘coronavirus’ into a verb or English speakers wonder how ‘coronababies’ (the children born or conceived during the pandemic) will fare. And, of course, there are abbreviations, like the ubiquitous ‘WFH’ and the life-saving ‘PPE’. 


Innovative signs: In the UK, 'covidiots' is being used to described those ignoring social distancing rules


Like everyone else, lexicologists are scrambling to keep up with the changes the pandemic has wrought. According to Fiona McPherson, the senior editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), back in December ‘coronavirus’ appeared only 0.03 times per million tokens (tokens are the smallest units of language collected and tracked in the OED corpus). The term ‘Covid-19’ was only coined in February, when the WHO announced the official name of the virus. But in April, the figures for both ‘Covid-19’ and ‘coronavirus’ had skyrocketed to about 1,750 per million tokens (suggesting that the two terms are now being used at roughly the same frequency).



In some cases the language being used isn't appreciated: this US healthcare worker is protesting against a lack of PPE

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