LOCKDOWN LANGUAGE: HOW COVID-19 HAS INFLUENCED VOCABULARY AROUND THE WORLD

Self-isolation. Social distancing. Furlough. Coronavirus. Lockdown.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on so many aspects of our lives, including our vocabulary.

Not only have these ‘unprecedented’ times reintroduced words into our everyday arsenal that we would only occasionally use before, thanks to their sudden increase in use across the media, but it has also driven the creation of brand new words and phrases – known as neologisms – which often spring up during sudden changes in our society. The Second World War was one particular period in history, for example, where many commonly used phrases we use today were first introduced into our lexicon.

So whether you’ve been making quarantinis at home during lockdown, riding the ups and downs of the coronacoaster with your emotions or calling out covidiots for their anti-social distancing – it’s safe to say a lot of new slang words and compound phrases have made their way into our vocabulary over the past few months.

But of course, it’s not only in the English language that this has happened.

Ceredigion Council in west Wales issued a new Welsh COVID-19 terminology index earlier this summer in order to ensure the newly-introduced phrases and words were being used correctly and consistently in their native language, while Irish speakers have been turning to some of their old proverbial seanfhocalin order to make sense or gain comfort of these unsettling times. In Scotland too, a poem by Ayrshire man Willie Sinclair in Scots called Tae a Virus has gained much traction online and even saw Denis Lawson perform a dramatic rendition.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Dutch have coined a new phrase to encapsulate their lockdown longing for human contact – huidhonger – meaning ‘skin hunger’, while in Spanish, the word cuaranpena marries together the Spanish word for quarantine (cuarantena) and sorrow (pena) to represent the feeling of sadness during isolation. The French have also been creative and formulated a word to sum up our lockdown film-binging – confinéma – a contraction of confinement and cinéma.