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15 Useful Words That Were Invented During the Pandemic

Has the pandemic left you at a loss for words? Consider some of these.

As everybody will tell you, it’s been a strange year, a difficult year, and a challenging year. But it seems also to have been an inspiring year when it comes to increasing the vocabulary of our language, never mind which language you speak. From all sorts of words that we already knew but never used this frequently before–“pandemic,” “quarantine,” “furlough”–to those which never (or rarely) applied to us before–“lockdown” and “curfew”–we learned to use a whole set of new words while staying home.

But while the Collins Dictionary named “lockdown” as their word for 2020, the bored and fed-up people around the world went one better, or actually, several 1,000 times better.

In Germany alone, the Leibniz Institute for the German Language reported that there were some 1,200 new words added to the German language during 2020, as compared to the usual of 200 per year.

But not only the Germans got creative, every country seems to have come up with their takes on our “new normal” and our changed way of life.

Here are some of the best–a list that is by no means comprehensive but quite inspiring.

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Jeudredi (French)

When one day merges into the next, you haven’t been out of the house for weeks, and have absolutely no idea what is happening and what day of the week it is, then chances are it’s jeudredi. A portmanteau of jeudi (Thursday) and vendredi (Friday), it sums up our confusion perfectly.

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Fussgruss (German)

Even on those brief occasions when you were allowed to go out of the house and maybe even see a friend, you were certainly not allowed to get too close. Hugs are out, kisses are not allowed, and the traditional handshake, so loved in Germany, has become very much frowned upon and downright scary. So, instead, people either distance high-five, elbow-bump, or, in Germany, participate in the Fussgruss. Merging Fuss (foot) with Gruss (greeting), you have an easy-to-say Fussgruss, a greeting where people touch their feet together while keeping their faces and bodies apart from each other.

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WFH (English)

What might at first glance look like an abbreviation that expresses a foul-language surprise, WFH is instead the acronym for Work From Home. Not a new concept for many a freelancer, but something quite new and challenging for the rest of the workforce, especially when there are spouses and kids to dodge as well as work to be done. Countless articles have been written about how best to WFH, how to adapt to WFH, and how to Zoom while WFH. (Anybody Zoomed before the pandemic? No, didn’t think so.) And it looks as if it is here to stay.

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Toekomstverdriet (Dutch)

Reportedly coined by Dutch writer Ronald Giphart, toekomstverdriet is a word we can all relate to, and probably my personal favorite of this selection. It translates as “future sadness or sorrow,” and sums up the kind of heartbreak we all felt and still feel for the plans we had that never happened, of the life we had anticipated, but which has been put on hold indefinitely, a kind of mourning for our future.

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Huidhonger (Dutch)

Huidhonger, translated as “skin hunger” or “skin starvation,” is the simple longing for the human touch, which we all missed and still are missing during the pandemic. Even the introverts. Hugging a friend or a family member is something we need for our physical and mental wellbeing, and it has been in short supply. The huidhonger is real and affecting us all.

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Knuffelcontact (Flemish)

A country that acknowledged the need for the above-mentioned skin contact is Belgium, where during the pandemic, every Belgian was allowed a knuffelcontact, a hug-buddy or a cuddle contact, preventing huidhonger. Because of its sheer cuteness and the sensible approach behind it, this was voted Flemish word of the year.

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bybianosis (m) / bybianosė (f) (Lithuanian)

Meaning “dick-nose,” i.e., someone who wears their mask with their nose hanging out, this might not be an easy word to say, but we can all empathize with it. Completely missing the point of mask-wearing, which we all appreciate is a pain, especially if you wear glasses, but it is a necessary pain. Having your nose sticking out is like men wearing their underpants with their genitals exposed, or women wearing bras with their breasts hanging out, as the public poster in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, shows to make common sense clearer to some.

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Covidiot (English)

We all know one, yet there are still so many of them around. A portmanteau of “covid” and “idiot,” the Macmillian Dictionary defines “covidiot” as “an insulting term for someone who ignores health advice about COVID-19.” From those who think it’s “just the flu” to the many bybianosis, or those who firmly cling onto the belief that the pandemic is a conspiracy, they all qualify for this term.

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Koronaświrus (Polish)

Hot on the heals of “covidiots” come the Koronaświrus. Sounds just like coronavirus, but that is the beauty of this expression, as it is a wordplay on świrus (a crazy person) and wirus (virus) and denotes a “corona crazy person,” someone who panics because of the pandemic. Obviously, this is not taking away from the anxiety which is felt to some extent by all of us. These are stressful times, there is no doubt about it, but this expression makes light of some who go a little over the top. Such as those who indulge in hamstring (see below).

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Hamstring (Swedish)

Derived from hamsters who seem to stick more food into their cheek pouches than they might ever need, hamstring is not only a muscle but also the Swedish word for hoarding or stockpiling. Not unlike hamsterkäufe in German, meaning “hamster shopping,” this is something that is not necessarily unique to the pandemic but all situations that lead people to fear that they might run out of basic necessities and to stockpile–for instance, toilet paper. Food would be sort of understandable, but toilet paper?

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Covidad (Spanish)

Last year’s Christmas was not quite like normal Christmases, but then what was? So, in Spain, they coined it Covidad, from Navidad, meaning “Christmas,” with a bit of COVID thrown in. The normal greeting of ¡Feliz Navidad! was changed to ¡Feliz Covidad! And YouTube was flooded with new versions of the old classic song, trying to make light of a rather depressing situation.

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Maskne (English)

Masks have become a daily staple and even a fashion accessory. Adjusting to a new version of breathing and trying not to fog those glasses up, we suddenly also welcomed “maskne” into our lives: mask acne, an acknowledged new skin condition caused by wearing masks, be it through friction or condensation. The struggle is real.

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Quarantini (English)

One of the better things invented during the pandemic. With our social lives having come to a screeching halt, mingling via video became the new normal. For many of us home alone on a normally crammed-full Friday night, or, even worse, on a birthday, in came “quarantinis,” which the Urban Dictionary defines as: “A strong alcoholic beverage that is made when people are quarantined, or otherwise locked up or trapped in a location for an extended period of time.” “Quarantini” recipes sprang up on the internet, subscriptions to online cocktail classes soared, and Zoomtail parties were all we had.

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Pandemic fine (English)

Officially defined as, “A state of being in which you are employed and healthy during a pandemic but you’re also tired and depressed and feel like trash all the time.” “Pandemic fine” is often a state that is like a vicious circle. No, you did not lose your job; no, you have not come down with the virus, or if you did, the symptoms were minor, so no, you don’t, on paper, have any reason to complain. But. Despite outwardly being one of the lucky ones, that does not mean that every single one of us is not struggling. So, “pandemic fine” is a state of being, which is better than what could have been, but it’s still not fine.

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Impfneid (German)

Simply translated as “vaccine envy,” this is something the entire world is feeling when someone posts a copy of their vaccination certificate or a picture of them having received their vaccine on social media. Rubbing salt into the wounds of those that are not there yet, be it because they are too young or live in a country that just has not gotten their act together quite yet. Impfneid is here to stay until every single person on the globe has had their jabs and we can emerge from our strange world and try and take control of our lives and future again.

I’ll drink a “quarantini” to that!