The new COVID dictionary

A Handy-Dandy Guide to “COVID Speak”


Avery Heinen, Contributor

For decades, it has been a time-honored tradition for each generation to make fun of the weird slang terms coined by the generation before them. Just as the youth of today laugh at the very thought of saying something is “totally tubular,” their parents laughed at their grandparents for daring to say “the cat’s pajamas.” That tradition may just be changing with the recent introduction of “COVID speak,” which transcends the generational divide. Just like slang, however, a lot of these phrases can take on multiple meanings and are easily misunderstood during their initial introduction into language. As it seems that the corporations that are supposed to be editing the dictionary are too busy trying to insert themselves into politics, this task must instead be taken up by a non-professional. As someone who has never once had anything to do with writing, editing, or publishing a dictionary, I believe I meet that criteria. 

Distance Learning – A model for “school” in which students do exactly what they usually do on the weekend: sit in front of a computer at home. The only learning that is actually occurring is either tips on how to beat the Ender dragon in Minecraft or the moves to the latest TikTok dances.

Essential Business – A mostly arbitrary designation upon which the status of a business or service rests. Businesses that are usually deemed essential do not necessarily fall under this category, and it’s usually up for debate which businesses qualify. Unless it’s McDonald’s, as the drive-thru at McDonald’s is critical for society to run properly. 

Flatten the Curve – An infectious disease control strategy in which people in an area proceed with extreme caution to ensure the health care system is not overrun. Designed to be a short term solution. Not to be confused with “crush the curve” a model in which no one leaves their homes until all threats in the outside world are neutralized. 

No Blueprint – A phrase used primarily to deflect questions regarding plans and policies. Immediately voided if the speaker decides that they know exactly how to control a novel virus as if they suddenly had the knowledge of a doctor of epidemiology practicing twenty years in the future. 

Peacetime Emergency – A power grab taken by politicians to justify the nullification of a person’s rights. Can result in the arrest of civilians that have not broken actual laws, but dared to buy the last bagel when they knew it was the governor’s favorite. 

Quarantine – Previously used to describe isolating people showing symptoms of and/or being directly exposed to a serious infectious disease for a set period of time. Is now used to describe the act of ordering all people, the healthy included, to self isolate indefinitely. 

Safer At Home – A highly popular statement with people in either positions of power or with access to many luxuries within their own home. Used to shame people without these amenities in their homes for wanting to access them in public locations. Often associated with the phrase “rules for thee, but not for me.” 

Social Distancing – The act of isolating people from one another indefinitely. Often leads to severe consequences to the emotional well-being of these people. Designed specifically to torture frat boys, sports fans, and grandmas that like to spead weekends with their grandkids.

The New Normal – A classic example of a “slippery slope.” This phrase is used to justify political actions that would never be accepted by citizens if they weren’t too preoccupied with the news ensuring them they are going to die a painful death. Not to be confused with the 2012 NBC sitcom of the same name. 

Unprecedented Times – A saying used to make the speaker sound as if they have any idea what they are speaking about. Almost always used in corporate responses and other copy-and-paste style notices or news stories.

We’re All in This Together – A slogan often repeated by elitists to make themselves feel superior to those they disagree with. Such elitists rarely if ever interact with the plebeian dissenters under normal circumstances. Incredibly common among A-list celebrities that have been flying in between their LA beach house and their “woodsy estate” in rural Oregon for months.

These are just a few of the many fun new terms that are out and about in the world today, so the next time you hear one of these buzzwords thrown around, you can be confident that you know exactly what is meant by it!