The weekly assessment of the top twenty-five words researched in the dictionary in the past week returns during a time of pandemic and paranoia
Words of the Week is back. Will it be here to stay? I sure hope so. I certainly cannot use the “I do not have enough time at home to focus on my own writings” excuse anymore.
The pandemic, brought you by COVID-19, has given the modern Western world a taste of the old world. As I look out the window of my apartment here in Msida, Malta, I can see a clear absence of heavy traffic (the small island nation is horrifically jam packed with vehicles). The narrows streets are empty; cafes and public venues are shut up; sometimes, essentials such as milk, eggs, bread, and cleaning products are completely absent from grocery stores. It is an odd experience to have now, and I cannot help but try to imagine that this is just a tiny taste of how existences were several decades or centuries ago in many of the countries I know and love: Malta, Poland, and Holland (certainly during the Second World War); and the frontier experiences of America and Australia.
I know full well that this pandemic has not completely levelled cities structurally; I know there are actual wars happening now; I would not dare to even try to justify a comparison made between what I am experiencing in Malta to that of my grandparents in a completely devastated Rotterdam in the 1940s. I must admit, though, that I surely have never had the experience of going to the grocery store, in need of essentials, and coming away without those essentials because there were legitimately none left in the store – nor the store next door. Not even a “my favorite brand of milk is not available – I guess I will grit my teeth and buy the other brand of milk” can happen. The experience of finding no stocks of bread or eggs is one I have never had before.
Suffice it to say, I have become far more grateful for what I do have, what I have had, and assuredly what I will have when this pandemic blows over.
As I return to present the top twenty-five words search for on Merriam-Webster’s Online Abridged Dictionary, it is not surprising to see coronavirus, quarantine, pandemic, furlough, virus, and apex among the few in the top fifteen. CNN and other media outlets essentially scramble these words around to make different headlines every other hour.
It is surprising to see a few words that dominated my previous rundowns still retain a spot in the top twenty-five. Fascism and socialism are the chiefs of these. Noun, adjective, and verb, sadly, are still there.
Here are the Words of the Week for March 31-April 6, 2020.
[If you’re short on time, jump down to adrenochrome. It’s quite something.]
This word is not practicing social distancing. It’s everywhere; it’s invasive. While its name is not as menacing sounding as “SARS” or “MERS” were, its COVID-19 moniker is certainly more sinister and dystopian-future-material-ish.
Stay home. That’s the antidote: be at home and don’t be a doting parent, friend, or spouse any longer. The coronavirus has shooed us all off into our domiciles, and there is compelling reason to think that a plan from above has arisen from the pandemic. We get to stop our self-imposed hectic lives and are forced to slow down, soak in the simple things in life, be with family, and reach out to friends we’ve long ignored.
I am confused: the Spanish flu (disputably) originated in Spain, the Hong Kong flu originated in Hong Kong, but the Coronavirus did not start in Corona, California?
The governmental or organisational directive to stop working has sadly put millions of people across the globe out of work completely. That is not what a furlough is designed to do, methinks. However, a wellspring of free online courses are available for the public (here, here, here, and here). Perhaps, when this is all over, those whose furlough was rather a let-go-from-work will return with new skills and knowledge and reach a higher rung of the career ladder than before.
An epidemic that spans multiple regions and boundaries, this iteration of a pandemic is testing the world’s resolve, exposing good and bad leadership, and, like furlough and quarantine, is putting the onus back on us to rethink what truly is important in life.
All of the top five words in this week’s list are nouns. The part of speech is still being searched repeatedly on Merriam Webster’s online dictionary. I mentioned the free online courses available to everyone earlier in the list. Hopefully, people will jump on the opportunity to get the grasps of basic language structures whilst in quarantine.
This is a fun one. Draconian is inspired by the Latin word Dracon for “serpent” or “dragon”. There was also a Greek lawgiver named Draco, the first of his kind and from whom the word Draconian is derived.
Much of the free world is getting just a tiny, itty-bitty taste of what a draconian society looks like: limited supplies, societal interactions discouraged and penalised, and enforced living parameters.
There has been an unspoken of pandemic that has plagued at least the English-speaking world for quite some time. Parts of speech like adjective, noun, and (18) verb still require explanation to purveyors of the dictionary.
Fascists put nation above the individual. This word has been battered repeatedly against the current US president and his administration. However, by assessing how most every country affected by the pandemic is responding to the coronavirus with tightened borders, travel restrictions, and temporary restrictions on the civil liberty to gather and assemble in order protect the health of the nation, are we not all acting a little fascist these days?
Asymptomatic is a synonym for symptomless – and that is the tricky and scary part of the coronavirus pandemic. Many people may have contacted the virus and contracted none of the virus by evidence of being asymptomatic, yet those people can still pass on the virus to others, who may be symptomatic as a result.
This word embodies itself as an entry to this list: novel. It is interesting how this word and not others that mean “new” or “never before known” collocates with coronavirus. I guess “the new, fresh, original coronavirus” didn’t quite suite chryons.
This word rose to the top of the list but failed to get as high as its partner, corona, did. Nevertheless, virus has claimed its victims and has made the experience of walking to the grocery store a frightening jaunt into the darkness for many people.
We like to think that we are pragmatic, and certainly would those in power, especially in response to the pandemic. Would anyone really like to boast that they are not a pragmatic person?
Hey, remember how there is going to be a US presidential election coming up soon? The pandemic seems to have placed the campaigns on the back pages of the papers.
How does socialism relate here? Well, it is the calling card of one certain Democratic candidate, and from the ashes of the pandemic, during which educational platforms are now free and hospital care and equipment is in short supply, that certain candidate may try to capitalize on our temporary dependencies for his political gain.
Reports and speculations on when the contagion of the virus will reach its apex varies drastically. Springtime events have been cancelled. Most summertime events have been cancelled. The fifteen spot for apex may be the highest point for this word.
We are in quarantine, but we are certainly not off the grid. Anecdotal evidence from me suggests that the number of social media accounts and users – or at the least the amount of activity on these accounts – have increased significantly since the outbreak of the virus. People, including myself, who have been dormant on Instagram and Twitter, are suddenly frequenters of the platform.
In other news, India’s plan to shut off power from a few minutes in a show of solidarity put the country’s grid operators in scramble to prepare for such drastic on-off switch.
Someone who is audacious is “recklessly bold.” Type in this word in News tab of Google and you will find many headlines calling hopeful plans to return society to normalcy after the virus “audacious”. It seems at this point that any glimmer of a plan to live life normally in the near future is audacious.
The verb of the year is “to social distance,” as in “I am social distancing because the government says I can.” With many people addicted to smartphones and social media, I would argue that social distancing has been practiced for many years already.
The honeymoon period of staying away from people is wearing off. The lack of sporting events for this writer is an absolute dreadful thing.
19. Martial Law
Are we under martial law? I have heard rumours about military vehicles rolling through the streets of LA and New York City during the shutdown, and this certainly invokes images of what martial law looks like. The fact that many law enforcement bodies across the world can fine people for gathering in groups as few as three is quite Draconian.
Many cultures are changing under the coronavirus, the lockdowns, and social distancing. Culture has been a mainstay on the Words of the Week list since last summer. How will your culture change after the pandemic?
This chilly adjective seems like an outlier in this week’s list, but not when Wendy’s is giving their chocolate condiment for fries for free with every drive-thru purchase. Wroclaw, Poland, my last home, was hit with wintry weather just last week.
It is a pity that the more interesting words on the lists rarely break through past the top ten or even fifteen. This word is the name of a drug made of brain stems for “Hollywood elites” and it is supposedly the reason why Tom Hanks got the coronavirus. Yeah, it’s a tinfoil hat fuel.
Here is more about adrenochrome from ABC.net.au:
Within the more wild conspiracy circles, adrenochrome is a drug for the liberal elite of Hollywood made from actual human brain stem. Hillary Clinton manufactures this drug by torturing children in a pizza shop (if you order a cheese pizza that’s code). Tom Hanks is addicted to adrenochrome and he caught COVID-19 from a tainted batch that came through Celine Dion, who is a high priestess from the Church of Satan.
My home state of Idaho was jostled by a 6.0-magnitude earthquake last week with its epicenter sourced near Stanley. Idaho’s squarer neighbour, Utah, received its own earthquake about two weeks prior, and it was strong enough to disarm the Angel Moroni of his trumpet.
With businesses and the market being gutted by the pandemic, many institutions and financial frameworks are granting moratoriums for people strongly affected by the pandemic. For the time being, my student loan is on moratorium, and that feels quite nice.
The popular prerogative is to peel yourself away from others and bunker down at home. What’s yours?