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The pandemic is changing the English language

October 16, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Two women practice social distancing while talking on Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Boston. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

This year, the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary did something unusual. They released special updates, citing a need to document the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the English language.

In the late spring, however, and again in July, the dictionary's editors released special updates, citing a need to document the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the English language.

They claim, for example, that the pandemic has produced only one truly new word: the acronym COVID-19.

Most of the coronavirus-related changes that the editors have noted have to do with older, more obscure words and phrases being catapulted into common usage, such as reproduction number and social distancing.

Traditionally, dictionary editors include scientific and technical terms only if they achieve some degree of currency outside of their disciplines.

The updates also include new citations for such terms as community transmission, which dates to 1959, and community spread, which was first documented in print in 1903.

Terms related to social isolation existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but they've become much more common in 2020.

"Rona" or "the rona" as slang for coronavirus has been observed in the U. S. and Australia, but the dictionary editors haven't documented wide enough usage to warrant its inclusion.

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced its fair share of new terms that are blends of other words, and many of these are on the editors' watch list.

The dictionary's editors report regional differences for this term as well.

Because the Oxford English Dictionary is edited and published in England, British forms take precedence: in the online dictionary, it appears under the headword Covid-19.

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