Faith PR account manager (and former sub-editor) Kate Wobschall looks at how the coronavirus pandemic has thrown up yet another challenge – learning a whole new vocabulary.

The onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic has changed the world beyond recognition. It has crashed through our day-to-day lives with all the care and consideration of a prize Limousin bull ploughing through a shop full of vintage Wedgewood.

Not only has it brought widespread changes to the way we live, work and educate our children, we are learning new skills we never knew we’d need. Who can clap the loudest? Who’s the best at competitive shopping? What household items can be fashioned into an effective yet stylish alternative to a face mask? (Bandanas, yes; snoods, possibly; empty milk cartons, probably not, TBH.)

We are also learning a whole new vocabulary. Pity for a moment the poor newspaper editor, suddenly inundated with indiscriminate capital letters, inverted commas and an unexplained outbreak of random dashes.


It began innocently enough. People were urged to self-isolate. Ooh, a new term! Is that the same as quarantine? Both variations had too many syllables for teenager boys, who promptly reduced it to ‘self-iso’ and adopted it as the perfect excuse to lurk undisturbed in their bedrooms glued to PS4s and demanding edible offerings be brought hourly and left at the door.

Social distancing became the new normal – two new terms added to our vocabulary for the price of one there – while we struggled not just to stay ahead of the curve but to flatten the blighter.

People were placed on furlough. This is not, as first thought, a term for measuring distance in horse racing but something far less fun and even more expensive.

Watching the 5pm Downing Street update became essential viewing, not so much for the information on offer but for playing corona-lingo bingo. Who’d say ‘unprecedented’ first? How many times would we hear that these times are uncertain, worrying or just plain old strange?

Then came the lockdown/lock down/lock-down or, for those in Scotland, Loch Down. Even the virus itself, like a message from the Prime Minister, raises more questions than it answers. When is it coronavirus and when is it Covid-19? Or is that COVID-19? Or Coronavirus with a capital ‘C’? Is it acceptable to shorten this a bit, maybe to the ‘cov’ or, perish the thought, the ‘rona’?

Now, as we begin to emerge from our corona-induced cocoon, we are presented with a roadmap for change (see also road map, road-map or ‘road map’.) Which is neither a road nor a map but is what used to be known as a plan.

And don’t forget the changing slogans – stay alert is the new stay at home. Which is fine, as you really can’t have too many alerts in this world.

As we take our first tentative steps back into our much-changed world, we do so equipped with new-found knowledge of how easily a terrifyingly deadly virus can spread; the anguish at how more than a million lives can be wiped out in just a few short months; and a whole new vocabulary where the humble road atlas will never feel quite the same again.