SYDNEY, Australia — Just like COVID-19 strains have mutated over the past 18 months, so too has the Australian vernacular adapted to the changing environment with a humorous cluster of corona-based colloquial words and expressions.
Lexicographers, who compile dictionaries, have noted the rise of some colorful additions to the Aussie language, including “Covidiots,” “Uploading my vaxxies (selfie photos while getting vaccinated)” and “Rona (short for Corona) wrecked my wedding plans”, which would have had Aussies scratching their heads prior to the pandemic.
“People are having a bit more fun on these words,” senior editor of the Macquarie Dictionary Victoria Morgan told Xinhua. The dictionary is widely considered the nation’s most authoritative work on the Australian English.
“When something affects everyone in society, people always need new language to describe what’s happening,” said Morgan.
The Macquarie Dictionary team closely watches what is happening in the Australian society. Whenever new words or idioms appear, they will examine them to see if they can be included in the next online or print editions.
“It doesn’t have to be the majority of people,” Morgan said. “Some types of language are used by teenagers or people in their 20s, but people in their 60s and 70s would never use or would never have heard about it.”
“That’s why we have to do quite a lot of research and make sure that it is used throughout the community. There’s always quite a number of words that we may have heard but, to me, they are not very intuitive to use, so we keep checking back on those ones,” said the senior editor.
Morgan said some of the new expressions including “doughnut day” for when there are zero new COVID-19 cases reported, and “Vaccine passport” which has also become commonplace due to the federal government’s policy on trying to contain the coronavirus epidemic.
“I guess in Australia we’ve played with language maybe more than some other English language systems … with lots of the words coming from blending,” she said.
Last year, for instance, “Covidiot” won the Macquarie Dictionary People’s Choice for the COVID word of the year. It is formed by combining “Covid-19” and “Idiot” and is used to describe a person who refuses to follow health advice aimed at halting the spread of the virus.
“Quarantini” is an alcoholic drink made at home during a time of enforced social isolation and is a cheerful blend of “quarantine” and “martini”.
Morgan said such words can also be an acknowledgement of people’s shared experiences and that using the words can become a uniting experience.
“Maybe the closer you are to someone, the more of that type of language you will use,” she said. “It’s just like people’s names, in particular, become shorter and shorter depending on how close you are to someone.”
Morgan said the COVID-inspired language was a reflection of life and the changing conditions brought about by the evolving pandemic.
“The ’19’ refers to the year when it was first reported, and all these terms that come out afterwards, like ‘Long Covid’. Then you must live with that, you know, it becomes ‘Covid Normal’,” Morgan said.
Likewise, there is “vaccination hesitancy”, which refers to a delay in acceptance or refusal to receive the jab.
When Australia was lagging behind in administering the COVID-19 vaccine, new words such as “strollout” were coined to reflect the slow process.
“If the public is not happy with something, people can come up with language, which is quite interesting, because I think that the people in charge of the rollout would hate it to have been called that,” Morgan said.
She added that the virus had provided more new words than any recent major event, reflecting the huge social impact and because, basically, people sometimes need a bit of laughing during tough times.
“We now have words like ‘Locky d’, which is colloquial for lockdown, it is not in the dictionary at the moment, but that will be updated maybe at the end of the year,” she said.
Meanwhile residents of the state of New South Wales (NSW) were relieved to learn on Tuesday that a “friends bubble” has started to allow children, who have been in lockdown for months, to finally meet up in groups of three. It seems the Macquarie Dictionary team may have another entry to add.