Glen Nowak, director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication, was quoted in a New York Times article about how the coronavirus has impacted vocabulary.
From new medical terms, political mandates and slang devised to take the clinical edge off, new vernacular has quickly crept into everyday conversations.
The proliferation of new jargon was significant enough to merit updates to the Oxford English Dictionary in April, beyond the dictionary’s standard quarterly updates.
The article notes that many of the words aren’t new; rather, their use has become more frequent and their meanings shifted in the new context of the pandemic. “Social distancing,” “self-isolation” and “coronavirus” date back decades, even centuries.
Even in the course of the pandemic, phrases evolve.
“You’re learning every single day, and you’re going to be making changes in your advice and guidance,” said Nowak, who was the director of media relations for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the H1N1 pandemic before coming to UGA. “You have to have user-friendly language and user-friendly terms. If you realize early on, actually, a better way to say this would be ‘stay at home’ — that’s actually more direct, more responsible. That’s what we want people to do.”