Welcome to Australia’s pandemic patois: tell us about your lockdown language

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images

With Sydney in the depths of a lockdown, it sometimes feels as though one day is merging into another in a fog of repetition and sameness.

So it’s good to see at least something novel has come out of the novel coronavirus.

The Macquarie Dictionary’s August new words blog, where they introduce trendy new terms, has highlighted some pandemic-inspired lingo.

Such linguistic playfulness is a joyful distraction from the horrors of Covid, but it was also pleasing to see some new slang words which do something radical: they poke fun at the pandemic, and our response to it.

Related: Is Aussie slang dying out?

The lexical inventiveness apparent in the emerging terms exhibit classic “dingo lingo” qualities. The Australian vernacular has a wonderfully unique ability to undercut the enormity, formidability and power of anything that risks bowing into submission the spirit of the convict nation.

This is done primarily through the Australian adoration of abbreviation – so lockdown becomes locky d.

Then there’s that beautiful satirical device, the pun, to mock and critique the glacial pace of Scott Morrison’s vaccine rollout, nicknamed the strollout.

It’s also a riposte to another new term – vaccine hesitancy - which some argue is an overcooked phenomenon, given supply issues.

Wearing a face mask so that the mouth is covered but the nose sticks out over the top is not only infuriatingly ineffective, it also now has an apt shorthand: dick-nose.

The equally creative portmanteau infobesity is very now, capturing the information overload particular to the perfect storm of a 24-hours news cycle and a pandemic with hourly changing data points. I love the economy of language conveying a multitude of meaning here, suggesting the overload is as bad for you as gorging on food to the point of a health crisis.

There’s defiant sunshine in every word of this pandemic patois. Not only is it playful linguistic respite; it also, for the brief moment you hear it, neuters the power the pandemic has over us. It showcases an Aussie spirit that doesn’t just say: this, too shall pass. It goes one further. It says, let’s laugh at it now. Else, you’d cry.

Tell us what new words the pandemic has brought to your vocabulary.

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