The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Coronaversaries: rollouts and re-entry

It's a year ago this week that the UK went into its first coronavirus lockdown and I've spotted quite a few #coronaversary (coronavirus + anniversary) posts across social media as people share what they were doing a year ago and reflect on the past twelve months. So, it seemed like a good time to reflect on the language – or coronavocab – that's developed to describe life in an unprecedented year.

Looking back at my coronavocab posts from last summer, much of the language I highlighted has remained with us and become an all-too-familiar part of our everyday vocabularies; face masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer, lockdown, homeschooling. Some of the more light-hearted coinages also still float about in articles and blog posts; coronacoaster, covidiots, quarantinis, isobaking. But how has our language changed to reflect developments so far in 2021?

For a start, what we call the virus has gradually changed. It started off as coronavirus, but then got renamed (in Feb 2020, for the sake of accuracy) to Covid-19 and has, over time, just come to be known as Covid. Looking at some stats from the Coronavirus Corpus (which collects texts about the pandemic from across the internet), Covid on its own still seems to lag behind, but that's probably down to the fact that it's a corpus of written texts including a number of sources that likely prefer the full form. If you were able to look at spoken usage, I suspect Covid would shoot up the rankings.

Probably the most significant event to influence the way we're talking about the pandemic in recent months though has been the vaccine rollout. Much like lockdown/lock down and the other phrasal verbs in one of my earlier posts, rollout (noun) and it's accompanying phrasal verb, roll out, are not completely new words, but they have increased massively in frequency in a very short time and shifted slightly in usage. Previously, rollouts were predominantly business-related and to do with new products being launched (the rollout of the new iPhone). However, since Covid vaccines started being approved for use late in 2020, governments around the world have been setting up vaccine program(me)s to roll out the vaccine and offer as many people as possible a Covid jab (especially in the UK) or a Covid shot (more in the US).

The language around vaccines includes the everyday language we all use to talk about getting our jabs (in red), the language relating to getting vaccines out to people (in green) as well as still some discussion about their development and production (in blue). It will be interesting to see how the collocations in the red group shift and get added to over the coming months as the implications and effects of more people being vaccinated play out.

Looking forward, in the UK at least, there's starting to be lots talk of easing (of restrictions) and a flurry of re- words such as re-entry and readjustment both from a practical and a psychological perspective:

What are you looking forward to re-entering or concerned about readjusting to in the coming months?

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