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Viral Vocabulary

22 May, 2020

When our lives change, our language often changes too.  

‘Social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’ and ‘furlough’ would have meant nothing a few months ago, but have now smuggled their way into our everyday language.

We’re not alone. All over the world, new words and phrases are emerging to keep up with rapidly changing circumstances – with exciting results…

Try ‘hamsterning’, a German term for stockpiling, derived from the verb ‘hamstern’, which means hoarding food like a hamster in its cheek pouches. Or the poignant Dutch ‘huidhonger’, ‘skin hunger’, to describe our longing for physical contact during lockdown.

Building on the Swedish term ‘flygskam’, ‘flight shame’, the Dutch have also coined a word for that familiar feeling of embarrassment when you have to cough in public: ‘hoestschaamte’, or ‘cough shame’.

Closer to home, linguistic coinages have been more ridiculous than sublime. Our particular favourites include ‘The Elephant in the Zoom’ (a glaring distraction during a digital meeting that everyone is too polite to mention, like your colleague’s partner walking across the screen wearing only a towel); ‘Quentin Quarantino’ (that friend who’s using lockdown to create amateur films that are much less entertaining than they think) and ‘Furlough Merlot’ (need we say more?).

If nothing else, incorporating some creative lockdown lingo into your Zoom catch-ups might make riding the ‘emotional coronacoaster’ a little easier to bear. So why not whip up a few ‘quarantinis’ this bank holiday and celebrate ‘locktail hour’ in style?

By Sarah Howden

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