The Discourse of Disease

Just like the virus before it, the COVID-19 vaccine is introducing English-speakers to a whole new lexicon. 

Coming as a surprise to no one, Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com both chose the highly-searched “pandemic” as their 2020 Word of the Year. The Oxford English Dictionary, on the other hand, couldn’t choose just one. 

“What was genuinely unprecedented this year was the hyper-speed at which the English-speaking world amassed a new collective vocabulary relating to the coronavirus, and how quickly it became, in many instances, a core part of the language,” the report reads.

From “quarantine” to “social distancing,” “herd immunity” to “lockdown”–and yes, the unprecedented rise of the word unprecedented–the spread of COVID-19 has already changed how we speak

And now, its testing and treatment are changing how we speak too

Words like “antigen,” “PCR,” “mRNA,” “spike protein” and “cold-chain” are all terms that, before 2020, might have stayed firmly within the pages of medical journals. 

But— as the COVID-vaccine became a reality— these terms saw a 214% increase in Twitter mentions, tweeted 2.7 million times in November alone.