Every major event in the world spawns a sudden burst of new words, catchcries and the bastardisation of existing words and phrases. The current pandemic is no exception and in recent weeks we have been bombarded with slogans like ‘social distancing’ and ‘self isolation’ – both hot contenders for words of the year in 2020.
There is a certain monotony and a debilitating tediousness with the constant repetition of these and other slogans – in the media, on social media and in everyday banter. Maybe it’s time to loosen up and explore not only some alternative phrases but look at the deep subtext of words that are being ingrained mercilessly into our psyche. Here then is a brief interpretive lexicon for the new paradigm.
SELF ISOLATION: In prisons across America, where the virus is spreading alarmingly, solitary confinement is often referred to as the ‘hole’ – ironically now the safest place to be if you are stuck in a penitentiary. Let’s adopt the prison vernacular and refer to our domestic imprisonment as being ‘locked in the hole’.
STIR CRAZY: The psychosis often generated by days confined at home is often labelled ‘cabin fever’ or ‘stir crazy’. The latter is another derivation from prison culture, first used in the early 1900s to describe prisoners suffering the effects of prolonged incarceration. Today it could more likely refer to the need for the constant ‘stirring’ of doomsday essentials such as instant noodles, soups and spaghetti sauces.
FODDER FEVER: Specifically ‘bum’ fodder and an apt description for the obsession by some in the community for the shameless hoarding of toilet paper. Other variations include ‘FODDER FIGHT’, when two or more people brawl over a six pack of Sorbent and FODDER FURY, when irate supermarket customers abuse checkout staff because there is no dunny paper.
THE FLOATING PETRI DISH: The label that so many ill-fated cruise ships are now forced to wear. When the pandemic is over, there’s bound to be a rash of name changes from the Ruby and Diamond Princesses to suggestions such as Lusitania Of The Seas, the Costa Non-Contagious and the patently obvious Titanic II.
BUG OUT: The current pandemic is bound to be every doomsday preppers wet dream as those shelves of Spam and canned chick peas suddenly look rather appetising. A ‘bug out’ is the often secret refuge where preppers retire in the face of civil insurrection, a nuclear holocaust or in this case COVID-19. If the current virus continues unabated many Australians might be looking to establish their own remote bug outs, stacked to the ceilings with toilet paper, packets of pasta and powdered eggs. I would much prefer something less American to describe this potential bush hideout. Indigenous Australians called these improvised shelters a ‘humpy’, in Scotland they’re known as a ‘bothy’ and our Maori friends label it a ‘whare’. Call it what you want – but just remember in the wilds of nowhere, without a good NBN signal, your Netflix subscription will be worthless!