The coronavirus pandemic has likely enriched your vocabulary beyond what you previously considered its limit. Terms like "epidemiologist," "zoonotic," or "herd immunity" roll off the tongue with surprising ease. And yet, you might feel like a Boomer trying to catch up on coronavirus slang. Coronavirus is now a person, and her name is Miss Rona, and no one likes her. Martinis are now Quarantinis. Life before the pandemic was pre-Rona, and an optimistic future takes place post-Rona. You get the gist.
Ben Zimmer, the chair of the New Words Committee at the American Dialect Society, and the language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, is thoroughly enjoying the "creative coinages" coronavirus has engendered. "Brand new circumstances necessitate a brand new vocabulary to talk about it," he says. "Whenever there's a momentous event, there's going to be and influx of new terms as people try to find new ways of expressing themselves," he tells Bustle. Zimmer has been sharing his own #coronacoinages on his Twitter feed for months now, and feels confident that certain terms, like covidiot and coronials, will stick around beyond the pandemic.
Even Dictionary.com has gotten in on the fun, creating an official coronavirus lexicon to add some "welcome humor, and humility, to cope with COVID-19 and quarantines." Currently, Dictionary.com acknowledges 16 different slang terms related to coronavirus, and creatives on Twitter are leveraging their boredom during quarantine (boringtine?) to expand coronaspeak even further.
After months of stuffing your brain with complex public health information, free up some space for a more colorful vocabulary that makes reality seem less threatening. Here are a few terms that you need to know to understand half of what's on Twitter:
The word isolation sounds serious. Iso is a slang term to make that party of one sound a little bit more interesting.
The term flu bros describes people who downplay the severity of coronavirus by comparing it to the common flu.
According to Dictionary.com, covidivorce is typically used jokingly, as a way to explain that your relationship is strained due to such sustained and close quarters.
When you open your phone to read that one article your friend sent you and find yourself hours later, sucked into a hole of depressing news, that's doomscrolling. Despite the fact that we can get the gist of what's going on in a few clicks, it's hard to unplug from the endless scroll of information. Dictionary.com defines this as the inability to "peel our eyes away from our phones and computers, constantly refreshing our feeds for the latest news about the pandemic."
The urge or act of cutting one's own hair due to the closure of hair salons, or the act of taking on the role of a hair dresser for family members during this time. Alternatively, you might call it a quarcut, meaning a haircut done in quarantine.
Miss Rona, Aunt Rona, the Rona: these are all terms used to personify the virus as a villain who does not play around. "Rona is often used as a playful or ironic way to refer to COVID-19, especially when commenting on more relatable, humorous challenges of social distancing during the pandemic," says Dictionary.com.
This term sounds more exciting than it is. Dictionary.com defines zumping as the act of dumping someone over Zoom — or any other video conferencing platform. Though it's not much better than a Post-It note, getting zumped might be a reality for many. As social distancing restrictions remain in place and relationships are strained by the distance and any pre-existing conflict, a face-to-face conversation via Zoom might be the most humane way to deal with a break up if the outcome is imminent. "I don't see it sticking around beyond the pandemic. It doesn't make sense unless you know that Zoom and getting dumped have been established as context, it probably won't last," Zimmer tells Bustle, who says that he enjoys the phrase nonetheless.
Quarantine & Chill
What was once "Netflix & Chill" is now "Quarantine and Chill," as explained by Dictionary.com. Families who are quarantined together are doing a lot of chilling these days, so why not make it sound more like a choice and less like a government mandate?
It's like a staycation, but it's due to a pandemic. For some, social distancing measures have left them out of work or school which is leaving them with an unplanned coronacation. Similar to "Quarantine & Chill," but with a more general implication. Someone on coronacation might be recumbent with cucumber slices over their eyes, or lounging in the tub with a cocktail — it's a vibe.
"A blend of COVID-19 and idiot, covidiot is a slang insult for someone who disregards healthy and safety guidelines about the novel coronavirus," according to Dictionary.com. The term could be used when regarding someone who is still hanging out with groups of people, someone who isn't covering their coughs, or someone getting too close. A covidiot can also be used to describe someone who is hoarding supplies or spreading misinformation online. The word moronavirus can be used interchangeably.
Empty streets and temporarily shuttered businesses give many cities a look and feel of an apocalyptical film. Coronapocalypse is a word (with its own hashtag on Twitter) that you might use to describe the sight of empty Times Square, or a grocery store with empty toilet paper shelves.
With lots of couples stuck at home together, we're destined to have a baby boom at the end of the year — at least according to Twitter. "Babies being conceived while people are cooped up at home during the coronavirus have been dubbed coronababies," Dictionary.com says, adding that "when these babies get older, they will become the quaranteens." These babies conceived during the pandemic will have their own (tongue-in-cheek) generational grouping called coronials. Zimmer predicts that these terms will stick around for a long time, and suggests that people who experienced the pandemic during their formative years, like Gen Z, might be re-labeled as Gen C.
Quarantine sounds very serious and scary, so Gen Z-ers have put the term through the coronaspeak machine and created cornteen. It's pronounced "corn-teen" and has the same meaning, but feels less threatening to type, especially if you just use the corn emoji. Dictionary.com suggests it originated as a misspelling.
Virtual Happy Hour
Before the pandemic, there was little reason to schedule a virtual happy hour, unless it was with a long distant friend or family member. Now, it's the closest thing many have to a social engagement. Meeting up with friends, family and co-workers at the digital watering hole of your choosing is the new happy hour.
Just because you can't date IRL during quarantine doesn't mean you can't get to know people through dating apps. If you find a match, that's your corona bae — a term to describe a person you're courting — at a distance — during quarantine.