Coronaspeak: Tracking language in a lockdown' by Amanda Laugesen

The ABR Podcast 27 May 2020

Coronaspeak: Tracking language in a lockdown' by Amanda Laugesen

The ABR Podcast 27 May 2020

Lexicographers, not just newspapers and television, respond to disasters. Language is never fixed, never finished, never done. In recent months, language has been shaped by the coronavirus. In this episode, Amanda Laugesen, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at ANU and editor of The Australian National Dictionary, discusses coronaspeak, the language of lockdown. 

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Music credit: 'Moonrise' and 'Negentropy' by Chad Crouch is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License.

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Comments (3)

  • Thank you, David, for pointing out this unfortunate error. We have corrected it online.
    Posted by Amanda Laugesen
    28 May 2020
  • Thanks, Amanda, and the ANDC. On everyone's behalf, do please keep collecting and monitoring this subspecies of English. I’m curious to see how transitory this lexicon will be. I think the longer a sense of emergency remains, the longer the terms will hover about in the language. But as our attention turns to other things, the crises that will flow in the post-Covid era (one of the newly minted terms) will generate another lexicon. (Will we refer, one day, to a new period - ‘Post-post-Covid’ times?) Coronavirus itself is a great word to detach bits from and make new words, A chap on the ABC the other day tossed ‘Coronomics’ into the conversation. Will younger people keep creating clever neologisms at lightning speed as they seem to have done recently, leaving anyone in my age group gasping as we try to catch the new terms flying by?And of course, will comedians stay front and centre in the process? I hope so.

    I am sure it’s a little like the early months of a total war like World War II, when people were constantly astounded by the speed of events and their surprisingness, and felt the floor was shifting under their feet. We naturally look for shared terms to normalise new experiences. Six weeks ago, most people in my circle didn't know what Zoom was. Now we meet like that all the time, saying, Sorry, have to hang up now, got a Zoom meeting soon and I must read the agenda papers.

    It's like the argot of high schools, the in-words your club or ‘pack’ adopts to distinguish itself, or the semi-specialised language of shipboard life we pick up two days out of port (“Meet you at the aft rail before cocktails”, “I wonder how many knots we made today”, etc. An unfortunate example and I’m sorry. )

    Apropos of Zoom and wfh, can you and team discover if there’s a useful word for the phenomenon I’ve observed, whereby at least the female participants in a Zoom meeting will swap their daggy cardigan for a clean shirt, bright scarf and earrings and pop on a bit of lippy, while staying in their stained trakky daks and ugg boots out of camera range? And if you don’t find the term, please invent one or set up a competition for one.
    Posted by Margot Harker
    28 May 2020
  • You would respect future generations, Amanda, by amending your mention of March 2019 to 2020. Covid19 is so named for its year of origin, but the language impacts occurred from March 2020. Otherwise those who are asked in future when did this virus occur may erroneously say 2019, due to its name only.
    Posted by David Muscio
    27 May 2020

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