Catastrophes and other historical events have a way of adding new words to the lexicon or resurrecting previously little used ones. Did the folks around here ever say “inundate” before the Agnes Flood of 1972? Did we know what a “sortie” was before they started flying them over Baghdad? Or a “hanging chad” before the 2000 presidential election?
The coronavirus pandemic is no different. Some of us who’ve plotted statistics on a graph were familiar with the normal bell curve, but we probably never talked about trying to “flatten” one. And who outside of medicine or some construction jobs knew what a “n95 mask” was? Now we toss the term about like we’ve been wearing them all our lives.
Not a day goes by that we don’t say, or at least hear the words “asymptomatic” and “community spread” and “social distancing” and even the seemingly innocuous “droplet,” which I always thought had a cute, friendly sound to it. Until it became a killer.
“Fomite,” the word for surfaces that could be vehicles for the virus such as light switches and door handles and the like, has not quite caught on, but give it time. Funny, if I had heard “fomite” before now I probably would have thought it a new model of Volkswagen. Or a video game.
About two months ago, those of us who teach found ourselves trying to figure out ways to do our jobs “remotely.” And that led us to the word “Zoom.” Soon to be followed by “Zoom Bomber,” a term for people with so little to do they crash online Zoom classes and meetings where they get their jollies by screaming obscenities or scrawling racial slurs across the screen. I can think of a lot of tried and tested words to apply to these people that aren’t necessarily unique to these times, but our renewed sense of brotherhood prohibits me from saying them. But not from thinking them.
Some words are enjoying a renaissance. “Takeout” and “curb service,” for example, and unfortunately, “furlough,” along with its more dreaded synonym “layoff.” I hesitate to even add “toilet paper” now that it’s become a cliché. Remember, by the way, when we used to call it “bath tissue,” and in hushed tones?
Lately, an old, quite common word that almost never entered my mind back when I was teaching in-person classes on the LCCC campus every day has come back with a vengeance and I am not one bit happy about it.
The word is “lunch.”
For me, lunch at school was typically nothing more than a pack of peanut butter crackers, occasionally enhanced with a cup of black coffee. But to borrow a term unique to older folks around here, not no more.
Since I started teaching remotely and since my wife and I started “sheltering in place,” lunch has become LUNCH. It’s now a downright event requiring planning, preparing, consuming and recovering from, otherwise known as a post-lunch nap. Which I’ve been trying to justify by calling a “siesta.” Homer Simpson takes a nap. Antonio Banderas enjoys a siesta.
I love my wife, but these days she’s taken to asking me “What do you want for lunch?” at 10:30 in the morning. How am I supposed to think about lunch when it’s time for my mid-morning snack?
She has a point, though. If we don’t get lunch out of the way by noon, it tends to collide with our mid-afternoon, post-siesta snack, and that will play havoc with our new dinner time, 4:30.
Of course, you know what happens when you eat dinner at 4:30? You’re starving by 7.
I’d be so much better off if only the potato chip aisle looked more like the toilet paper aisle.
I’ve been trying to get out and walk when weather permits, but unless I start walking to Kingston and back on a daily basis, I’ll be fighting a losing battle against my new eating routine.
I suppose there is an upside, though.
At the rate I’m going, sheltering in place is soon going to get a whole lot easier.
I’m about a week’s worth of lunches away from not being able fit through the front door.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.