Undesigning Words of the Week – Part 2

The coronavirus ecdemic has lasted for about five months now, and already it has transformed the English language in a few ways.

Pop quiz: what is wrong with the title of this blog post?

In part one of this week’s Words of the Week, I described how I am “undesigning” this blog series on the top twenty-five most popular words of the week according to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Online Dictionary. I showed also the correct definition and usage of “undesigning,” which is the answer to the pop quiz.

Before concluding the Words of the Week for May 4-11, I will highlight three entries that stand out to me and that show how quickly the English language can evolve.

First, in verb (11), Zoom, the more business-savvy cousin of Skype, is becoming itself a verb. It joins Google, FaceTime, and Skype, the bubbly, happy-go-lucky cousin of Zoom, as product names verb-erized by popular use.

Corona, at number twelve, is not by definition shorthand for the coronavirus, and yet the media are transforming this word that otherwise describes a part of a crown or a city in California into an adjective alluding to the coronavirus.

Speaking of adjectives, I have decided to go Draconian on the casing of Draconian and other adjectives of proper origin. This may be a Gargantuan language usage error on my part, and indeed I am likely living in a Quixotic reality, but I am making this stand once and for all.

There are plenty of other tidbits and facts to glean from in the remaining fifteen words for Words of the Week – May 4-12. Enjoy.

Part 2

11. Verb

Last week’s ranking: 15

Meaning and usage

Here is a particular type of verb for you to learn: pro-verb.

A pro-verb is “a form of the verb do used to avoid repetition of a full verb”, as in “my church in Malta zooms Bible studies, as do many others.”

Why it is in the news

Before the coronavirus, the videoconferencing application Zoom was known primarily in the business world. Now, local churches, gyms, and families use the application to stay in touch. So much so that it has become a verb itself. This past week, I zoomed in with my local church, and my rugby club zoomed our fitness workouts.

If I were a betting man, I would consider putting a few bucks down on “to zoom” as an underdog Word of the Year. That honour may likely go to “social distancing”.

The Angry Grammarian from the Philadelphia Inquirer looks at how the pandemic has changed our language so quickly.

12. Corona

Last week’s ranking: 9

Meaning and usage

The first definition for corona is “noun, the projecting part of a classic cornice,” or a something suggesting a crown.

Springtime in Malta is beautiful, as is anywhere across the globe at this time. The cacti in Malta are starting to bloom, creating an oddly stunning and stinging visual.

Why it is in the news

Corona itself as a word, by definition, does not suggest anything about the coronavirus. Yet a glance at news articles about the virus shows that writers are starting to use “corona” as shorthand for the coronavirus; writers are using corona as an adjective to describe things related to the virus.

Corona politics is dividing the UK; corona warriors are health workers who fight against the ecdemic; and there is the corona time warp effect that is messing with our perception of time.

I suspect we will adopt corona manners post-coronavirus: we will maintain our distance from other people and handshakes will be archaic greetings.

13. Racism

Last week’s ranking: 13

Meaning and usage

Racism is “the assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another…” This is bound with the belief of “inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others.”

It is irritating to have to write about this word week after week, but I guess I will have to if racism continues to be a re-aggravated wound in American discourse.

Why it is in the news

The murder of Ahmaud Arbery re-ignited an already relit rekindling of the smouldering embers of the fire that is the issue of racism in America. This murder of a young man whilst out on a job happened back in late February, but only recently were arrests of the alleged killers made. It has since inspired a “I Run with Maud” movement and demands for justice. Social media circles are encouraging others to jog 2.23 miles (the date of the murder) in honour of Arbery.

The details of the shooting are disturbing. Not much more to say than that. Pitiful that this should happen to anyone.

14. Culture

Last week’s ranking: 16

Meaning and usage

This entry’s first few definitions relate to the art of cultivating, or the “steady endeavour at improvement of or in a special line.” This is a nice illustration of the definition that I would primarily attribute to the word culture, in that it is the “body of customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” At our best and most honest behaviour, we all endeavour to improve the way of life around us.

Unfortunately, human nature monkeys with the improvement of human culture.

Why it is in the news

Everything can affect culture(s), so why exclude a global ecdemic?

The virus has culled out starkly opposing views on how our respective cultures could and should react to the coronavirus and the resulting quarantine measures to fight it. The culture of individualism says “let us be, and we’ll get through this somehow on our own,” while the culture of togetherness says “we all must do our part to fight it.”

The above is a very mild summary of the approaches to surviving the virus, of course. Some fear that our culture (I am speaking broadly here) will become iron-cladded in a surveillance state; the coronavirus is the lucky break for which governments desiring to exert more power and control have been waiting. This is the long-term spoiling of culture. I cannot say for certain that it is indeed the thirst for power that is influencing these decisions to lockdown this part of the economy and society and not that part (essential versus non-essential businesses, that is to say).

The short-term spoiling of culture comes from those with brazen disregard for the health and safety of their communities at the expense of their individual rights. It is the goodness of individualism taken in unhealthy doses.

Power and selfishness: two ugly sides of human nature that really spoil the steady improvement of culture.

15. Happy

Last week’s ranking: 10

Meaning and usage

Happy is an adjective meaning to be “favoured by luck or fortune.” That is definition number one, oddly enough.

The third definition in Merriam-Webster is what is most commonly used: “enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment.”

There is a collection of good-intentioned quotes online that do not happy me so much when I really think about them. (Yes, happy is a now-dialectal verb meaning “to make happy.”) The quotes vary in verbiage, but they can be summed up as “Do more of what makes you happy.”

Eating burritos everyday makes me happy. Day-drinking makes me happy. Not working for long stretches of time makes me happy. These are detrimental to my health and the well-being of those around me, but, hey, they make me happy. I will do that!

No, seeking happiness is not the primary goal of life. If seeking happiness was the mission of life, we would all fail. Not to mention, our happiness can cause unhappiness in others.

Meaning is the purpose of life – and I have complete and divine meaning from our Creator.

Why it is in the news

At the time of writing this particular part of Words of the Week, it is Mother’s Day. Moms are wonderful, and my Mom is the most wonderful. My Mom-in-law is equally wonderful. My Grandmoms are no less wonderful, too.

Happy Mother’s Day, Moms!

16. Love

Last week’s ranking: 17

Meaning and usage

Love, or in the following explanation, “charity”, is describe as follows:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 King James Version (KJV)

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Why it is in the news

International travel has been restricted because of the coronavirus. In some countries, even local or state travel is restricted.

France rejected proposals for easing travel restrictions across the country for couples separated by long distances. “‘Love’ should be added to the list of ‘compelling reasons’ people could use to justify travelling more than 100km (60 miles) from home.” The head health minister of France put the idea down as he did not want to “increase the number of exceptions to the rules.”

17. Correspond

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

An intransitive verb meaning “to be in conformity or agreement” or “to be equivalent.”

Correspond is a go-to verb in any research paper that attempts to equate hypotheses to reality.

Why it is in the news

It is understood that the volume of research and reporting on coronavirus-related deaths is high. This corresponds with the decisions to be taken by governments and governing bodies on when to reopen life again; the lower the infection and death rates, the sooner we can resume the 2020 party like it is 2019.

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