The Telegraph

Parlez-vous pandemic? We’re all fluent in the language of lockdown now

Coronavirus See also: Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, CV, The Rona, Miss Rona The big one, the reason we’re all here. At first it sounded like a tabloid headline about a mystery Mexican lager-induced illness. It turned out to be much, much worse. Quaintly, for a while we added the word “novel”, but that soon wore off. Covidiot A wonderfully flexible term for anybody acting like a moron in the pandemic. Loo roll-stockpilers? Covidiots. The celebrities involved in that cover of Imagine? Covidiots. Anyone driving from London to Snowdonia in lockdown to get some fresh air? Covidiots. Rita Ora? Queen of the Covidiots. Circuit-breaker Not a motorsport term for a missing bit of track, but a short, fortnight-long lockdown designed to halt transmission and save Christmas. That went well. Clap, The Given reports about falling birth rates and a sex drought, the original, colloquial definition of ‘the clap’ is probably experiencing a downturn. But that’s fine, because we developed a new one: the act of gathering on our doorsteps to show our appreciation for NHS workers by passive-aggressively judging our neighbours while denting our least favourite wok. Furlough As Michelle Obama famously almost said: “When they furlough, we say ‘Wait, what? What does that even mean…’” Yes, the US term for a temporary period of absence (typically from the army or prison) became a household name in the UK when Rishi Sunak put half the country on mostly-paid leave that hasn’t ended for many, yet. Lockdown In theory it meant the closing of offices, non-essential shops and hospitality venues, and restrictions on movement and meetings. In practice it meant resorting to crafts, gardening and baking for kicks; Googling “prison cell workouts”; completing Netflix and coming to despise every inch of our own homes and local areas. NERVTAG The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, aka the group of eminent scientists advising Professor Chris Whitty and the Government about the threats from viral respiratory tract infections, and not, as you might have imagined a year ago, a terrible new VR “immersive experience” in which stag dos run around a disused warehouse pretending to shoot aliens. PPE The initial NHS shortage of personal protective equipment was awful, and the rest of us having to wear masks or face-shields or gloves or whole-body hazmat suits (that’s you, Naomi Campbell) to leave the house has not been ideal, but on the other hand, it’s been brilliant to see all those insufferable types who did politics, philosophy and economics at university have had their acronym usurped. R rate Introduced last summer – not as, in fact, a measure for the number of pirates in one room, but the reproduction rate, used to chart the growth of the coronavirus in a community. Who knew? Oh, scientists knew. Well, now we do, too. Sage A nice herb, a lovely colour, a wise old man… but now better known as the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, the brains behind our pandemic response. Whitty, Vallance, JVT, Harries, Farrar, Ferguson became the new rock stars. And pub (or Zoom) quiz answers for years to come. Self-isolate Like quarantine (being locked away to avoid risking passing the virus to others), but self-imposed, For The Greater Good, for 14 days. “I can’t, I’m self-isolating,” you’d say, to avoid The Clap. Also known as Starmering, given Sir Keir seemed to have to do it once a month or so. Social distancing 2m – no, 1m. No, 2m. All human contact – handshakes, hugs, high-fives, squeezing past people in the pub with your chest puffed and hands held high so as to prove you’re doing nothing untoward – was out, staying a sneeze-length apart was in. It helped to think of it like a physical manifestation of being emotionally distant. Easier for some than others. Substantial meal What did they decide, in the end? A chipolata? Wine with ice cubes in it? Chewing gum with your Guinness? Super-spreader Kerrygold loses another potential tagline. By March 2020 we knew all about super-spreaders, thanks to one (unfairly maligned) man in Brighton and the Cheltenham festival. It’s misleading because “super” tends to be used in a positive sense (you never hear about “super terrorists”, do you?), but a super-spreader was officially Not Good. WFH Working from home, which for a lot of us is now just “work”. It can also mean “Why the f***ing HELL?!”, as in, “WFH is my neighbour learning the In The Air Tonight drum solo at 11am, and WFH is my internet down, and WFH isn’t this over yet?” Zoom Our overlord. When the world went into lockdown, video calling was inevitable. Skype probably rubbed its little hands together with glee. FaceTime must have licked its lips. And then Zoom, whatever the hell Zoom was, just came in, took over the planet and became a verb.