The Explosion of New Words and Phrases in Pandemic Times

BBL Translation

New words and phrases are being introduced to the world all the time. However, there are few that have entered so quickly and at the same level as the terminology associated with the coronavirus pandemic. The reason for this is because coronavirus has had such a massive impact on the entire population and has been a big part of everybody’s lives for almost a year. Also, technology and the use of social media – which has increased this year as people spend more time on their devices – has helped words and phrases to spread and become world-wide trends. This is something that was not the case for previous health crises such as the 2002 SARS outbreak or Swine Flu in 2009 since the world was not as digitally connected back then as it is now. Therefore, there are now more opportunities for people to share terms and for them to spread further than just a local community.

Interestingly, the majority, if not all, of the words that have become more popular this year already existed pre-pandemic, the difference is that now they are being used more frequently and they have a much different significance in the world. And perhaps certain phrases will always be associated with the pandemic and will remind us of these times in future years. Some of the most common words and phrases that have been used are ‘virtual coffee dates’ and ‘virtual happy hour’ to describe a catch-up with friends but over laptop screens and not in person which sums up the socially distanced nature of human contact that the pandemic has caused. Similarly, COVID-19 has also led to a ‘zoom phenomenon’, with many people taking part in zoom quizzes and zoom meetings. Nevertheless, people have become somewhat fed up with this new way of socialising and coined the term ‘zoomed out’ when they have had enough time staring at their laptop screen.


Furthermore, there have been many metaphors that relate the pandemic to a war-like situation such as, describing the virus as an ‘invisible weapon’ as well as referring to healthcare workers as ‘frontline workers’. This is an interesting way of thinking about the current situation because normally when we think of a war we think of physical fighting and physical weapon’s such as guns. However, this pandemic is like a war but in a much different sense because the whole world is trying to fight it, but nobody really knows the best way to do so.

People also often use language for humorous purposes and to help make light of a really terrible situation. We have seen this throughout the pandemic as there has been an outpouring of metaphors which highlights the linguistic creativity and shows that language plays a big part in everybody’s lives. Some examples include referring to the coronavirus as ‘Miss Rona’ and creating play on words like ‘quarantine and chill’ which shows people adapting to the current situation. It is clear that humour helps bring people together during difficult times and helps to lift people’s spirits as it is a way of trying to poke fun and laugh at the situation instead of losing hope. Also, with the whole world now having the same vocabulary in their lives it can help people to feel more connected which at times like this is very important because it makes you feel less alone since everyone is experiencing the same struggles.

In these significant times, it is obvious that language plays a huge role in people’s lives and one of the most important things about creating new metaphors and starting trends is that it helps people to articulate their worries and concerns. Therefore, it makes it easier to talk about a situation because it has a name and in general this helps people cope with the changing circumstances.

Here at BBLTranslation, we have years of experience translating from many different languages into English and therefore we can offer you accurate and guaranteed no mistakes translations. BBLTranslation founder and managing director is an Imperial College London alumna and has proven experience in the medical and pharmaceutical field. We at BBLTranslation believe that we can contribute to any projects in an immeasurable way by using our highly-skilled international team of translators and interpreters. We do not want to be our client’s external providers only, but we are willing to assist them in a customized way aimed at a long-term collaboration.

Photo: by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

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