Opinion and Editorial

Covid-19 redefined words, enriched our vocabulary

Anthony F. D’Silva
Filed on October 31, 2020

(Stuart Burford / Alamy Stock Photo)

The coronavirus, a word with such a nice ring to it, comes from the Latin word meaning crown

Eight months ago, if somebody were to ask me what a pandemic was, I would probably have replied that it was an epidemic that used to break out a long time ago when medicine was not advanced enough. Eight months down the line, I am wiser. As if endemic and epidemic were not challenging enough, now we are weighed down by pandemic.

The coronavirus, a word with such a nice ring to it, comes from the Latin word meaning crown, and most people would have heard it during solar or lunar eclipses. And suddenly it is the name of the most virulent virus to infect humanity in recent times.

Covid-19 has enriched the lexicon of the common man. So many new words and phrases have been added to their vocabulary.

Let’s be honest. How many of us knew the correct meaning of quarantine? What a quaint and ancient word, like some legacy of the Roman Empire! Vaguely, quarantine was something that was done only at nasty airports. Today, it is on the lips of even the toddlers and has become an integral part of air travel.

Working from home (now commonly shortened to WFH) was every employee’s dream in the era of B.C. (before Covid). Now it is the most hated phrase among employees. How we all yearn for a working day in an office, instead of being cooped up at home with a hundred distractions, housework, and nagging!

Covid has given us another new phrase: social distancing. This practice is actually more anti-social than social. The behaviour we reserved for our worst enemies is now applied to the best of our friends.

How about a handshake? It is as dead as a dodo. Now we do the elbow bump; even the non-invasive hi-five has been thrown out of the window. Many have opted for the safe old namaste. The word asymptomatic was buried in medical journals and used by boring doctors to get away with a wrong diagnosis. Now in the era of A.C. (after Covid), asymptomatic could be you, your wife or the person next to you at the supermarket counter.

Sanitisers were something they used in hospitals and by people with obsessive compulsive disorder. Now they are an essential tool-kit for survival, to be kept handy at all times, the only effective challenger to the coronavirus.

I love the term self-isolation. In ordinary times, it would have been bliss and a welcome change to undergo self-isolation surrounded by good food, drink, books and entertainment. But the Covid-19 self-isolation comes with luggage, including fear of infection, and even death.

The frontline medical fraternity is advised to take airborne precautions as some studies have shown that the coronavirus can survive in the air in some settings. That phrase intrigues me no end.

I always thought that a ventilator was a piece of equipment invented to improve ventilation in a room. Covid-19 has enlightened me with this piece of knowledge: ventilator is a machine that supplies oxygen to a patient with severe lung issues.

And, oh, I love this: the goal is to flatten the curve. Wow. It foxed me for a long time. It refers to the “flattening” of the curve on the graph, meaning the slowing down of new infections and the flattened curve looks like a gentle hill.

There are doctors and doctors, but Covid-19 informed that there is a branch of medicine called Epidemiology that studies how diseases spread in communities of people.

Finally, face-masks were made for robbers and those suffering from infectious diseases but Covid-19 has ensured that they become a part of the general attire.

Anthony F. D’Silva is a Dubai-based writer and PR consultant.

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