We all know that this pandemic is wreaking havoc on our existence, thrashing the tenets of life and turning our world upside down. It continues to have devastating effects on our world economy, instills fear every time we are near another human being (especially if he coughs or sneezes), and has brought death in numbers that approximate the World War II casualties.
However, together with these catastrophic developments, one can’t help but notice a surge in words and phrases that have never or rarely been heard of before. Whether you consider these new entries to our vocabulary as something positive or as harbingers of gloom and doom, it is for you to decide.
When I first heard the authorities express their desire to flatten the curve, I had to process the phrase thoroughly in my mind. I eventually realized it referred to a plateau in a statistical chart, coming after peaks and spikes, indicating a suppressed or controlled activity. Many people immediately used the term with gay abandon, maybe because they wanted to sound like learned statisticians. Because the phrase was new to everybody’s daily lingo, some netizens were quick to poke fun at it. They showed memes with people exercising through abdominal crunches, trying to flatten the curves of their oversized bellies.
Then came social distancing which, to me, is an oxymoron. How can you be social if you distance yourself from other human beings? I prefer to use the more appropriate “physical distancing,” because it clearly portrays the actual set-up required of the situation.
But the biggest misnomer of them all is new normal, or next normal, whichever the misguided speaker prefers to use. Covering one’s face all the time, keeping a six-foot distance from any living creature, not being able to hug, kiss, or show any form of affection to your loved ones—is there even an iota of normalcy in any of these? And there are other restrictions, too many to mention, that have made our lives almost unbearable. I am willing to accept, albeit reluctantly, “new environment,” because this phrase does not deceive us to believe that what we are currently required to do is normal.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always known hand sanitizers to be possessions of the rich who are always careful with everything they touch outside their prim-and-proper world. Now, these are owned by everybody from all walks of life, millennials to seniors, and those in between. In fact, just the other day, I saw a delivery boy spraying his hands with his bottle of this vaporizing solution right after he received payment for his errand.
Through my growing up years, I have always known protocol as a procedure paired with anything diplomatic. Now, I’m surprised that people are freely using it with “medical,” “hygiene,” and “safety.” The other day, I even saw somebody on TV pairing this word with “virtual.” I’m not sure if I should rejoice that this disease has expanded our vocabulary.
From out of nowhere, there suddenly appeared a three-letter acronym that has taken daily conversation by storm. PPE (personal protective equipment), has become an overnight sensation, even more popularly used than ATM, CNN, and SMS. I guess it’s the novelty of the item and Filipinos’ penchant for using initials every time they can (as in referring to a boss using the three initials of his full name).
When I first heard authorities talk about a second wave, it hit me with an almost apocalyptic impact, like hearing of the second coming of Christ. I later understood and was relieved to find out, that it meant something less cataclysmic—a resurgence of massive contamination after experiencing a much-desired decrease of such. No wonder our Secretary of Health merrily used it even before we were done with our first wave.
Do you notice that everybody you talk to now ends their messages with be safe? This phrase has taken over “goodbye,” “take care,” and “see you again,” verbalized by everyone of all ages. I remember the time when this phrase would only be used by a father secretly whispering to his son before the latter goes out on a date with his girlfriend.
There are many more entries to this lexicon. I’m sure you have your own list, too, and your feelings about each of them. It would be nice to hear from you. Meantime, staying within the confines of this COVID-19 vocabulary, let me remind you—be safe.
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