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Arts & Culture

Do You Speak Corona?

Creative Commons

It took two years for the word AIDS to get from coinage to dictionary. It took COVID-19 thirty-four days. The pandemic has inspired a thousand new or repurposed words, slang, nicknames, and neologisms.

It has changed the way we speak.  

We made technical medical language part of everyday conversation. We created new words to describe  emotions that had no words. We repurposed old words or combined two words to express a way of life we never expected. Lockdowns. WFH. Pancession. Doomscrolling.

We made phrases to unite us, others to make us laugh, and some to explain our confusion. Workers became essential and advertisers made them heroes.   

Do you speak Corona?


  • Peter Sokolowski is a lexicographer and editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster; he's also a musician and public radio jazz host at NEPR, and he's the author of a chapter in The Whole World in a Book (@PeterSokowski
  • Tony Horne is a linguist, lexicographer, and a language consultant in the faculty of Arts and Humanities, at King’s College, London (@tonythorne007
  • Justin Petersis a correspondentfor Slate and the author of  The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet (@justintrevett)

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Colin McEnroe and Cat Pastor contributed to this show. 

Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.

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