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From 'doomscrolling' to 'blursday': Goodbye 2020

I recently came across an article by NYT reporter Tim Herrera which made the point that language is dynamic, perpetually responsive to our ever-trending pop culture and contemporary experiences. As a result, we now have a vocabulary born of our health care and political crises. Find below a list of these words cum definitions: Some I have used as springboards, others I’ve embellished with levity where appropriate; a few are my own, gleaned from my sofa-bound travels.

Let’s begin with DOOMSCROLLING: unedited, online consuming of bad news/information known to be detrimental to one’s mental health and well-being.

QUARANTINI: your go- to drink for lockdowns and beyond.

THE MESSY THRESHOLD: how tidy, clean, put-away, vacuumed, dusted, organized does your now-all-too-familiar digs have to be before it reaches a critical mass of — good grief! — intolerance. Ditto your stay-at-HOME OUTFIT: T-shirt scuzzy? Stand up, take off, turn inside out, put back on (try to get the label in back). You are now Zoom ready!

And speaking of ZOOM: the online, go-to remote, full-screen interaction or conferencing. And no worries — frayed jeans/blown-out sweat pants and flip-flops are de rigueur.

MASKNE: irritation and pimples developed from wearing a mask. And while we’re on the MASK: This 4- by 11-inch piece of protective material, determined to be two-way safety gear, has gone totemic; its defiant absence has devolved into a political statement. As well, while wearing a mask, we’re all trying to say with our eyes and eyebrows what we once said with our grin, smile, and a flash of teeth. Behind the mask, shaving and flossing and fuzz removal are so yesterday.

REMOTE LEARNING: as if. Face-to-face teaching, finally acknowledged as an art, one requiring a trifecta of skill sets that not everyone possesses, long underrated and underpaid, and now suddenly viewed through a different prism. Just ask parents after two weeks of school closures.

PODS: your designated group deemed safe to hang out with.

VOTER FRAUD: nonexistent, except in Trumpworld, where unicorns range free.

BLURSDAY: the unreliability of pandemic time, days steeped in déjà vu and all things groundhog-esque, often measured by the aging, brown-pimpled bananas in a bowl in the kitchen.

And then there’s SOCIAL CONTACT TRACING: trying to remember who you actually had a conversation with — was that this morning or yesterday?

FLATTEN THE CURVE: not likely. For reasons that are inexplicable, millions of Americans (aka SUPERSPREADERS) traveled over Thanksgiving and Christmas, refusing to social distance or wear masks, which, in the aggregate, are, apparently, a bridge too far. What this means is that FLATTENING THE CURVE proves eminently elusive hence, the graphs go vertical, aka as SPIKES or SURGES. And there’s the word SUPERSPREADER, often used to characterize Trump’s ubiquitous rallies and now holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas (85 million Americans were reported to have traveled over Christmas).

EDIBLES: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota just legalized marijuana. Timing is everything. Of course, while some may reach for a comfort doobie, well, in the first six months of the pandemic some 19 million Americans bought guns. Feeling more relaxed?

STREAMERS: Can you hear me now? A cohort of not-camera-shy denizens who sit for hours before a screen and over-share a spectrum of content, from baking to sleeping (really), apparently filling a niche. One streaming site is called “Twitch,” a perfect name for that tic likely to develop after dedicated watching. I was going to say, “Who has the time ” but, of course, pandemic time is relative.

Last word: UNPRECEDENTED: a go-to descriptor that expresses our response not only to the novel coronavirus but the crashing-through-guardrails Trump presidency. It quickly became a utilitarian buzzword that grew so familiar it soon lost its ability to carry the weight of the moment. And what a moment it has been. Thus far.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.

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