Lockdown lingo

By Angela Bensemann, Director Halo Communications

The English language is constantly evolving – most of the time we barely notice until we take the time to reflect and wonder about the origins of words like Google, selfie and meme.

This year the lingo-makers are in overdrive and there’s been a couple of doozies – Covid-19 and Coronavirus.

Apparently, Coronavirus was already a thing – most of us just didn’t know it. Part-way through our Coronavirus crisis Covid-19 popped up. We’re told we needed a proper name, and the World Health Organisation gave us one on 11 February 2020. Now we can hardly remember a time before it.

But more significantly for me has been noticing the repurposing and the ‘conscious coupling’ of phrases supporting the Covid-19 messaging in New Zealand.

The ‘bubble’ has taken on a whole new gravitas. In the past kids had their personal space bubble, cyclists had their safety bubble, and of course a bubble was something you blew with gum.

Nowadays a bubble can (but not always) include others – it’s no longer solely a single person protector. Now it’s a protective safety shield for those of your nearest and dearest in lockdown (dis)harmony with you.

Sometimes a bubble can join with another bubble but only in really specially circumstances like shared custody of children.

Sometimes you can leave the bubble but only for essential supplies, essential workers or for a quick walk.

Whatever your bubble situation – everyone has one and everyone knows what this new bubble is.

Social distancing and self-isolation have popped up as phrases to teach us to stay apart and stay home.

We’re all acutely aware of staying at least two metres away from anyone outside our bubble if we happen to chance upon them.

We also know that if we have Covid-19 symptoms, have tested positive, or have returned from overseas we need to self-isolate and get really comfortable with staying in our bubble.

A lockdown is no-longer the sole domain of penitentiaries but now an everyday reality and way of life for many of us around the world.

The lockdown comes with a new set of rules about what we can and can’t do. It’s a stark reminder that although many of us are ok and we still have food, shelter, power and water, our world has been upended and nothing is the same and won’t be for quite some time.

I for one am acutely aware that we’re living through a history making time.

I’m also expecting a lot more lingo to come at us as the virus continues to make its mark around the world and then as we all start to move into recovery mode. I’m looking forward to hearing clever phrases about immunity, economic growth, stability, resilience, hope and prosperity.