From 31 Dec 2019, the Coronavirus has been with us for a few days short of four months. It has taken over the world in this period and apart from disease, deprivations and deaths, it has given us a whole new lexicon as well.
First off the block was christening of the Virus. They did not want to change the vintage of the model. So, it was named nCoV-19 or Novel Coronavirus of 2019. It missed being a truly new model by just one day! Eventually the disease was renamed COVID-19. Short, sweet, pronounceable and carrying the year of the model too.
We then began adding other new terms and reviving some old ones. Many of these are oxymorons. Some are ironical. And many others are just revivalist.
Looking at the oxymorons first, we were again reminded that there is an organization called United Nations. The nearly 200 countries of the world decided their own strategies, evacuated their citizens from China, Italy, Iran and other hotspots in the initial days, and sealed their borders and ports of entry. The airports just shut down, the aircrafts were all grounded and we tried to keep the virus out in that fashion! But the virus respects no borders.
The next term that became popular is Social Distancing. People so isolated themselves that they stopped meeting and greeting relatives and friends. Finally, it dawned on someone that we mean physical distancing and not social distancing!
Meanwhile, newspapers kept themselves busy churning out all kinds of news and pseudo-information through copious newsprint. People finally suspended delivery of newspapers to their doorstep lest it brought the virus to them. The so-called Expert Opinions have not stopped altogether but the printed versions have definitely come down. Perhaps we have managed to save some trees in the bargain.
Journalists have not suspended their exertions though, reviving an age-old oxymoron called Responsible Journalism. This effort on their part accommodates all views on a subject about which the world knew next to nothing. You can pick and choose what you wish to believe in, and then spend time discussing your favourite views because you have plenty of time on hand.
This brings us to the other new term called Lockdown. Entire nations asked their citizens to lock themselves up in their respective homes in the name of lockdowns to slow down the spread of the virus. Ergo! We have plenty of time available to discuss the new things we learn. What is not available in the newspapers is freely accessible on Social Media, though how social is that media is anybody’s guess.
Borders which used to be porous are no more so. Now they are sealed with a sealant called Nationalism. ‘You keep your problems and we will hang on to ours’ is the new motto. Hand Hygiene is a term revived and freely bandied about. We talk of Cough Etiquette now as if it was perfectly alright earlier to cough indiscriminately.
The term Exponential Growth has been borrowed from statisticians and has been widely circulated. And the whole world is looking for Game Changers. The irony is that even though the world seems cleaner, greener and quieter, we have been physically distanced from this beautiful world. In our attempts to flatten the curve, our everyday life has changed drastically.
The coming days and weeks are going to bring in many such terms into everyday lexicon. Nothing is certain or perhaps all that is certain is that ‘The times, they are a-changing!’