The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Monday, July 19, 2021

Coronavocab: the pingdemic

I haven’t posted about coronavocab for a while, largely because the corpus I was using to track new words last year hasn’t kept up – and currently only has data up to Jan 2021. I should say that the folks who’ve been putting together the Timestamped JSI Web Corpus did an amazing job keeping pace last year, so it’s really no surprise that they’ve finally had to slow down.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist posting about this latest new coinage, just because it’s such a great creation. So, this post is based on anecdotal evidence and some googling. To explain the pingdemic though, I need to take a step back first.

be/get pinged (verb, usually passive) 

In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) introduced a phone app last year that’s designed to track coronavirus infections. Apparently, it’s been downloaded by millions of people. It works in two main ways, firstly it uses Bluetooth to detect whether you’ve been in close contact with someone who later tests positive for Covid-19, i.e. you’ve been close to them for more than about 15 minutes.

You also use it to check in to places like restaurants by scanning a QR code, so that if there’s an outbreak connected to the venue, you can be alerted.


And if you receive a notification via either of these methods, you get pinged to tell you to self-isolate for 10 days.

If I get pinged, there is only me - so the shop would have to close. (BBC

More than half a million people in England were "pinged" by the NHS Covid-19 app in a single week (ITV news)

Employers report staff shortages as thousands of workers pinged (Personnel Today

What do I do if I am pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app? (The Times

More people in Leeds were 'pinged' by the NHS Covid app than anywhere else in the country last week (Yorkshire Evening Post


In recent weeks, the number of infections in the UK has increased dramatically – although thankfully, with many people now vaccinated, those cases have largely been mild or asymptomatic. Along with that, thousands of people are getting pinged every day resulting in a pingdemic where increasing numbers of people are being told to self-isolate, leading to many businesses being short-staffed or even forced to close.

NHS Test and Trace is penetrating through walls and forcing neighbours to self-isolate in the latest sign of a ‘pingdemic’. (Metro

Amid both the pingdemic and face mask rule confusion, we asked our readers what they are most worried about this summer (Telegraph

Bin collections have also been hit by the pingdemic in Wyre council in Lancashire. (Guardian

The cause appears to be the so-called “pingdemic”, with essential staff being told to self-isolate because they have been in contact with a coronavirus case. (Independent

Inevitably, this is going to be a fairly short-lived new term, but I still find it oddly pleasing – what with the light-hearted nature of the word ping which brings a bit of fun amongst the gloom and also because it just mirrors the word it’s based on so nicely. 

and fully-vaxxed (adjectives)

One reason why the pingdemic might not be with us for too much longer is that in a few weeks, the guidelines are due to change so that people who’ve been double-jabbed and fully-vaxxed will no longer have to isolate and will instead just be asked to take a Covid test.

From 16 August, double jabbed individuals and under 18s will no longer need to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 (UK government website

Double-jabbed Britons have been given the green light to jet to holiday hotspots like Greece and Italy this summer without quarantine. (Evening Standard

People who have not been double jabbed will have to test negative for COVID-19 within 24 hours of arrival in France if they are travelling from the UK, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Greece. (Sky News)

The phenomena of the double x in vaxx (short for vaccine/vaccinate) is an odd one. Other verbs ending in x don’t double their final consonant; taxed, faxed, relaxed. It’s not a new coinage as it’s been used in the context of anti-vaxxers (people opposed to vaccination) for several years – and it may have originated in the controversial anti-vaccine film; “Vaxxed”. Whatever its origins, in the past few months it’s blossomed - and freed itself of those connotations.

Two-thirds of adults in the UK are now double-vaxxed  (City AM

Canada may let fully vaxxed Americans visit next month (The Suburban

Work ongoing to understand the profile of fully vaxxed people with severe outcomes. (Metro

Can anyone out there confirm I have this right for what is needed to travel from UK to Majorca next week please - both adults double vaxxed last jab a month ago. (Mumsnet)

Interestingly, that last example, a comment from an online forum, shows how while pingdemic is probably more one for journalists and headline writers, being pinged, jabbed and vaxxed have all passed into people's everyday vocabulary.

We’ll have to wait and see how long the pingdemic lasts and what new coronavocab coinages continue to emerge as the situation develops …

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