‘Miss Rona Speaks’- Have you learnt her language yet?

“It is mid-afternoon somewhere on a Blursday, so go plant yourself on the couch to quarantine and chill. It’s time to de-stress from all the Rona-related doomscrolling you’ve been doing while trying not to be a covidiot

If you’ve used some of these terms in recent weeks, then Congratulations: You’re becoming fluent in the language of Miss Rona!Language is something that is constantly evolvingand has reached new creative heights in this time wherein Corona virus is now a person with the name “Miss Rona” whom nobody likes. An artistic rendering of the novel coronavirus that started online, with its prickly sphere and badly photoshopped hoop earrings, Mrs Potatohead lips and fake nails, metaphorically gave the virus a sense of being a nasty or sassy being. This personification in its true sense captures the mundane ways in which the virus has disrupted our lives: cancelling our plans, testing our relationships, watching over us as we wash our hands until they’re scaly.

After months of stuffing and loading our brains with wearisome and complex public health information, using interesting wordplay and slangs brings some welcome humor, and humility to cope with this Covid crisis.

However, in the early confusion and growing public panic, as researchers raced to investigate the makeup of this strange new virus, there was scarcely any time to worry about the linguistic implications of when to call a pandemic a pandemic and what we should consider when naming a new disease. By February 11, when the WHO gave the name COVID-19 to the mystery disease, it was perhaps too late. A range of colloquial labels had already taken root. People had already come up with intuitive names that referenced the disease’s origin, such as the “China flu” or “Wuhan virus.” While these names may have been used neutrally at first, it became clear that they had the potential to reinforce harmful stereotypes and give rise to racism.

Like many other lexicologists all over the world, I wonder what are the long term connotations of this new linguistic creativity that Rona has brought in its wake. Let me quote an example. Using war metaphors like “frontline warriors” or “battle”, Donald Trump equating himself to a “war time president”,  PM Modi referring to migrant workers as “disciplined soldiers” and so on has been rampant since the start of the pandemic. This, I believe breeds fear and distorts the true reality. While it may have helped bring the nation together initially, in the long run, it inculcates a sense of restlessness. Some healthcare workers have expressed their frustration at being called ‘heroes’, rather than being seen as anxious, frightened individuals doing a job, who need protective equipment and policy rather than relying on their own sacrifices.

Ending on a humorous note, let me familiarize you with some playful Corona coinages that have gotten us through these depressing times.

  • Coronacation- It is like a staycation but this is more of a vibe, like lounging in a tub with a cocktail at your home.
  • Blursday- Originally used to describe a day spent hung over, it has gained momentum because no one knows what day of the week it is anymore
  • Corona babies- Predicting the baby boom that is about to come
  • Coronials, Quaranteens- The babies being conceived in this period will be called this when they grow up post-Rona.

Of course, it is (a pandemic). We’re there. It doesn’t matter what kind of terminology you use. To me, the pandemic is a mindset. We will all pull through.

By- Dr Mannat Kaur Bhatia

Government Medical College, Patiala

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4 Responses

  1. Usha Nandini says:

    The drama-queen that she is… Miss. Rona managed to capture the attention of the whole world!

  2. Simmi Aggarwal says:

    Mannat,very well captured and beautifully described the pandemic lexicography…
    All in coronacation enjoying our own cocktails😉 but all in different not in lounge tubs😁😁😁

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