How COVID-19 is changing the English language
In April, the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary did something unusual. For the previous 20 years, they had posted quarterly updates to announce the new words and meanings selected for inclusion. These updates are usually available in March, June, September, and December.In late spring, however, and again in July, the dictionary editors released special updates, citing the need to document the impact. of the COVID-19 pandemic in the English Language. Although the editors have documented many language changes related to coronaviruses, some of their observations are surprising. They claim, for example, that the pandemic has produced only one truly new word: the acronym COVID-19. Most of the coronavirus-related changes that the editors have noted relate to older, more obscure words and phrases that are catapulted together. use, such as reproduction number and social distance. They also documented the creation of new word mixes based on earlier vocabulary. The Oxford English Dictionary aspires to be the most comprehensive and comprehensive document of the language and its history. In 1884 parts of the first edition were published. It was not completed until 1928. Over the following years, additional volumes of new words were published to complete the first edition, and these were incorporated into a second edition published in 1989. This is the version that you will find in most libraries. A digital version, on CD-ROM, followed in 1992. In March 2000, the dictionary launched an online version. For this new edition, the editors have revised definitions dating back to the first edition which are, in many cases, over a century old. Due to its size, this third edition will not appear in print, and these revisions may not be completed until 2034. At the same time, editors continue to document the language as it grows, changes and evolves. Quarterly updates provide a list of new words and revisions. The September update, for example, includes “craftivist” and “Cookie Monster”. Something Old, Something New Special coronavirus updates give us a glimpse of how the language can change rapidly in the face of unprecedented social and economic disruption. For example, one of the effects of the pandemic is that it has brought previously obscure medical terms to the forefront of everyday discourse. Traditionally, dictionary editors have included scientific and technical terms only if they achieve some degree of relevance outside their disciplines. This is the case with the names of drugs, because there are several thousand of them. For example, you will see Ritalin and Oxycontin in the dictionary, but you will not see Aripiprazole. However, the pandemic has seen at least two drug names enter public discourse. Hydroxychloroquine, a treatment for malaria touted by some as a quick fix against the virus, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in July, although the name of the drug appeared on paper. as early as 1951, another recently known drug was dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that reduced the death rate from COVID-19. It appeared in print as early as 1958 and was included in the second edition of the dictionary. In the July update, the editors provided a quote illustrating the drug’s current use to fight the coronavirus. The updates also include new quotes for terms such as community transmission, which dates back to 1959, and community spread, which was first documented in 1903. Terms related to social isolation existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but became much more common in 2020. Self-isolation, self- Isolated and Shelter-in-Place have all received new citations to illustrate their current use. Some terms have seen a change in meaning. Originally, sheltering in place meant seeking safety during a circumscribed event, such as a tornado or an active shooter attack. It is now used to refer to a prolonged period of social isolation. Similarly, the elbow bump has evolved from a high-five-like gesture, as documented in 1981, to its present form: a sure way to greet a other person. differences also appear in the language of COVID-19. Self-isolation has been the preferred term in British English, while self-quarantine is more commonly used in the United States. t sufficiently broad documented use to justify its inclusion. An ongoing problem for lexicographers is deciding whether a term has enough strength to be listed in the dictionary. The COVID-19 pandemic has produced its fair share of new terms that are mixtures of other words, and many of them are on the editors’ watchlist. They include “maskne,” an acne outbreak caused by facial blankets; “Zoombombing”, that is to say when strangers interfere in videoconferences; and “quarantini”, a cocktail consumed in isolation. Other new mixes include “covidiot,” for someone who ignores public safety recommendations; “Doomscrolling”, which occurs when you browse through stories related to an anxiety-provoking pandemic on your smartphone; and the German term “hamsterkauf”, or panic buying. Whether such terms will be in common use after the pandemic is a guess.[Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get expert takes on today’s news, every day.] “COVID” or “Covid”? And what about COVID-19 itself? According to the editors of the dictionary, it first appeared in a World Health Organization status report on February 11 as a shorthand for “coronavirus disease 2019”. But should it be written as COVID-19 or Covid-19? The editors of the dictionary also report regional differences for this term. “COVID” is dominant in the United States, Canada and Australia, while “Covid” is more common in the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. Because the Oxford English Dictionary is edited and published in England, the British forms prevail: in the online dictionary it appears under the keyword Covid-19. Past health crises have also spawned new acronyms and terminologies. Almost 40 years ago, the terms AIDS and HIV entered the language. However, they only appeared in the dictionary when the Second Edition was released in the late 1980s By posting updates online, editors can track language changes as they occur over time. almost real, and English-language referees no This article is republished from The Conversation, a non-profit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. Read more: * How to Talk About Coronavirus As that enemy fighter may turn against you * Why do we say ‘OK Roger J. Kreuz does not work, consult, own or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has not disclosed any relevant affiliation beyond academic appointment.