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I wrote, not quite a year ago, a short post about some new words, phrases, and idioms emerging from the then-new pandemic in the context of controlled vocabularies. The point of the post was to underline the need for vocabulary governance to ensure the validity and utility of taxonomies by keeping up with new usages and coinages in light of some new terms entering our vocabulary (social distancing, for example). 

Some 347 days later, language has unsurprisingly offered many, many additional pandemic- and quarantine-specific idioms—and linguists more serious than I have been taking notice, including a pretty comprehensive effort about new German covidioms from the Leibniz Institute including over 1200 new words and phrases. 

I’ve rounded up a few interesting examples (and cited sources at the end of this post), most of which are pretty self-evident and do not require additional explanation or comment:

Overzoomed, Zoom fatigue 

Coronafrisur (DE), Corona hairstyle (EN) 

Hamsteritis (the urge to stockpile food) 


Coronaangst (DE) 

Zombieflughafen (DE) (“Zombie airports” – also used as a construction to refer to other deserted-looking places due to lockdowns) 

Lots more at the links at the end of this post. It’s pretty clear that, at this point, there’s enough material to build an entire taxonomy of coronavirus/COVID/quarantine terms. To wit: 

Real-life applications

Richard Price and Emily Hopkins of Health Education England (part of the NHS) recently presented a talk at [Bite-Sized, Virtual] Taxonomy Boot Camp London about managing taxonomies (and content!) in the time of coronavirus — a rapidly changing and developing landscape of medical terminology and information. In addition to new terminology describing medical stuff (around the virus) and pandemic-related concepts, they described also dealing with a bunch of terms/concepts about, for example, working from home and providing remote care, as new tools and technologies and techniques emerging to help healthcare workers do their jobsand contact patientsremotely. Not only are new technologies emerging — like using VR goggles to allow doctors to interact with life-sized 3D images of patients for diagnosisbut such developments drive the emergence of terminology to describe their associated devices, systems, and use. 

To this end, they developed a Coronavirus Taxonomy (!) to collect and organize the new consensus on terminology, skills, knowledge, support, tools, and systems including both clinical terminology and less technical public-facing language. The need for rapid and accessible dissemination of new clinical content is also being driven by the quick entry of newly qualified medical students into the workforce necessitating easy-to-find and -digest content. To this end, this taxonomy is very rich in synonyms, including both traditional NPTs like lexical variants as well as misspellings and other term variants useful for driving search and discovery. 


Sources for this post: 

Guardian UK story by Abby Young-Powell 

New Coronavirus Words on the website of the Leibniz Institute for the German Language 

Coronawords post from the blog Language Log