As we approach the one-year mark of the coronavirus pandemic’s arrival in Seattle, one thing is clear: Life has changed drastically since the “Before Times,” and in the months since, we’ve had to adopt new behaviors, new lifestyles and new worries. So many new worries. Another “new” thing to consider? Vocabulary.

By now you know the scientific terms: SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, PCR testing, etc. But the pandemic also forced us to commandeer old words to be used in new ways, and to create new phrases to describe an experience unlike any other. Consequently, we’ve adopted some novel terms that have by this point become ubiquitous in many people’s everyday lingo. Here are some that come to mind for our creative features staffers, who’ve also tossed in a couple of tongue-in-cheek additions that maybe aren’t used daily quite yet — but that certainly should be.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

This list is sorted alphabetically and is by no means exhaustive. Have suggestions of words that we should add to the list? Stick them in the comments below.

_______________________________________________________________________

Anti-maskers, n., pl. | Definition: People who refuse to wear a mask or who believe they should not be required to wear a mask to engage in civil society. Example: “The anti-maskers think it is unreasonable that they should be asked to wear a mask before entering a store.”

— Stef Loh, features editor

Apocabae, n. | Definition: The partner you found toward the end of the Before Times (see: “Before Times”), or right at the start of the COVID-19 era — i.e., right as it seemed like the world as we knew it was ending. Generally denotes a person you might have entered into a relationship with — official or unofficial — after a truncated “dating” period, and because the pandemic happened, you ended up quarantining together (see: “quarantine”) and, well, now you’re just living together comfortably (maybe in sin?) like an old married couple. Example: “This is Josh, my apocabae. We met last February, but we’ve been living together for exactly a year now!”

S.L.

Before Times, n. | Definition: Denotes a time before the coronavirus pandemic and multiple crises — in the form of attempted insurrections, civil rights movements and climate crises — that have piled on since the pandemic began. Typically said with a hauntingly sad emphasis on “before” to indicate a time immemorial when we were not all locked in our homes and grimace-smiling behind masks at anyone outside of our own domiciles. Adding an “ah” before the phrase accentuates the nostalgia for boredom and mundanity that punctuated said “Before Times.” Example: “Remember back in the Before Times when we used to just casually touch door handles as if they weren’t potentially covered in deadly virus particles?”

Advertising

— Crystal Paul, theater and communities reporter

COVID, n. | Definition: Colloquial term for COVID-19. (See also, “The ’Rona.”) Example: “Geez, get your maskless face away from me! I don’t want to get the COVID!”

S.L.

Covidiot, n. | Definition: Mashup of “COVID” and “idiot.” An epithet generally used to describe (or shame) either a person who doesn’t believe the coronavirus is a real thing, or a person who puts others at risk by flouting coronavirus safety protocols. Example: “Are you seriously going to a Super Bowl party at a stranger’s house that two dozen people have been invited to? Don’t be a covidiot!”

S.L.

Emaskulation, n. | Definition: A mental condition experienced by some adolescents and adults, primarily male-identified, characterized by the delusion that taking steps to limit the transmission of COVID-19 (e.g., wearing a mask, social distancing) will diminish their strength, vigor and overall standing among peers. It may be an aspect of chronic insecurity, denialism and/or aggressive indifference to the well-being of others. Example: “Stan always refuses hand sanitizer — he suffers from emaskulation.”

— Brendan Kiley, arts and travel reporter

Hand distinction, n. | Definition: The act of designating one hand (or finger, in which case we call it “finger distinction”) to touch “outside,” potentially coronavirus-infected surfaces when you’re in public. Generally, one hand is designated the “touching hand” and the other is reserved for more hygienic purposes, such as scratching an itch on your person. Example: “Oh no! I screwed up my hand distinction system by adjusting my glasses with the hand I just used to grab the grocery cart! Arrrgh!”

S.L.

Mask mismatch, n. | Definition: The social phenomenon in which one half of a couple (typically the male) does not wear a mask in public, while their partner does. A possible corollary to emaskulation. Example: “Have you noticed that Katie always wears two masks and Jim’s is always dangling from his ear? What a mask mismatch.”

— Megan Burbank, outdoors and visual arts reporter

Maskne, n. | Definition: Acne resulting from excessive mask-wearing — often occurs if mask has not been laundered or switched out enough. Example: “Ahhhh!!! Mom! My maskne is severe today!”

Advertising

S.L.

Masky-matchy, adj. | Definition: Used to describe a very fashionable person whose mask and outfit are on point together. Example: “Damn, Daniel! Those white Vans are so masky-matchy with that white mask!”

S.L.

Outdoor setup, n.Definition: The facilities you have created or amassed for outdoor socializing throughout the COVID-19 winter. Example: “Between our fire pit, oversized tent and portable space heater, we’ve got a killer outdoor setup on our patio.”

— S.L.

Pandemic pet, n. | Definition: A dog, cat, bird, hamster or other cute pet similar to the thousands of animals that people acquired after the pandemic emptied offices and stay-home orders resulted in people working from home for months. What better time to potty-train a dog? Example: “The run on people going out to get pandemic pets emptied animal shelters last spring — one of the few silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic.”

— S.L.

Pandemic pod, n. | Definition: A nuclear group of friends or close family members that’s a social construct of the coronavirus era. Generally numbers under five (see: “social distancing”). The tiny, select group of people you’ve nervously decided you’re OK seeing from a distance, with masks, because you’re comfortable with their pandemic hygiene practices and have determined that their low-risk behavior (hopefully) poses limited risk to you. Think of them as the COVID-era equivalent of the Myspace-era top eight friends list. Example: “Let’s hang out with the pandemic pod in front of our fire pit on Friday night.”

S.L.

Panoramic, panini press, panorama, pantaloon, palindrome, you get the picture …, n. |Definition: Things we say when we mean “pandemic,” but after a year in lockdown, we need some variety. Any absurd word that begins with “pan” will do. Example: “You’re having a party? But we’re in a panini press!”

— M.B.

Pivot, v. | Definition: Perhaps the most-used business-related buzzword of 2020. Used to describe how a wide variety of businesses had to quickly toss out their old business plans and adopt new strategies to get through the pandemic and all COVID-19 lockdown-related restrictions. Example: “After pivoting from fine dining to drive-in burgers, Seattle restaurant Canlis pivoted yet again and started an outdoor crab shack over the summer.”

Advertising

S.L.

Plans, n., pl. | Definition: A historical term used to describe social engagements people in the Before Times were able to make with other people — frequently in public, among crowds of other humans. Now seldom used. Because who has plans anymore? Example: “Do you have any plans this weekend?” “No.”

S.L.

Quaranteen, n. | Definition: Young people who have spent some part of their teenage years in lockdown or quarantine (see: “quarantine”) during the pandemic. Used by adults in a plaintive manner; used by quaranteens with an air of bragging about how much harder they’ve had it than their parents did when they were teenagers. Example: “Ugh, mom! You can’t keep taking our devices away! We’re quaranteens, there’s literally nothing else to do!”

— C.P. 

Quarantine, n. | Definition: The two-week period of isolation you must serve if you do anything considered even remotely risky in terms of COVID-19 safety standards. Want to hop on an airplane? You’d better quarantine beforehand. Returning home from having been on an airplane? You’d better quarantine on the back end. Can also be used as verb. Example: “Oh no, you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus? You’d better start your quarantine, too!”; “Sorry, we can’t make it. We’re quarantining this week because we have to visit mom next Sunday in Portland.”

S.L.

Real pants, outdoor pants, hard pants, coarse pants, human pants, n. | Definition: Pants that are made of any rigid, binding material such as denim or khaki, that we once wore every day in the Before Times and no longer remember why. The opposite of soft pants: forgiving, loosefitting garments in unobstructive knits, worn with sudden regularity beginning in March 2020 (e.g., pajama bottoms, leggings, sweatpants, joggers). Example: “The dog had to go out so I finally changed out of my soft pants into hard pants. It was awful.”

— M.B.

The ’Rona, n. | Definition: Yet another colloquial term for the terrible, awful, no-good coronavirus. Example: “Ahhhhh! I don’t want to get The ’Rona!”

S.L.

Social distancing, n. | Definition: The act of staying at least 6 feet away from any other human, so as to prevent the spread of the horrid coronavirus. Example: “If we all wear masks and practice social distancing, we will get through this pandemic.”

Sponsored

S.L.

Socially distanced meetup, n. | Definition: An outdoor date or hangout where you and one other person or a small group of friends socialize outside and at a distance while wearing masks. Usually occurs at a park or in a backyard. Example: “I’m seeing some friends today for a socially distanced meetup where we won’t be hugging or high-fiving and plan to reminisce about life before the pandemic the whole time.”

— Yasmeen Wafai, features news assistant

Superspreader, n. | Definition: Person or event who, or that, through negligence, triggers a COVID-19 outbreak. Example: “Bob’s Thanksgiving dinner became a superspreader event when batty Aunt Barb brought her entire book club and everyone shared food and no one wore masks! Now they all have COVID-19!”

S.L.

Takeout, n. | Definition: Going to a restaurant to pick up food so that you don’t have to cook dinner. The default dining-out option in the COVID-19 era. Example: “Let’s go get takeout tonight. Whaddya want? Pizza? Burgers? Noodles?”

S.L.

WFH, n. | Definition: Colloquial abbreviation for “work from home” — the current status quo for many office workers who were sent home in March 2020, never to return (yet). Example: “The WFH life is conducive to soft pants, pandemic pets and hanging out with your apocabae.”

— S.L.

Zoom, n. | Definition: A company that provides a video conferencing platform. It zoomed — pun fully intended! — into public consciousness as the coronavirus pandemic forced the aforementioned hordes of office workers into work-from-home mode in March 2020. To be used as a verb or noun, akin to the noun/verb “Google.” Example: “Let’s Zoom later today with the pandemic pod.”

— S.L.

Zoomer, n. | Definition: 1 Kids who’ve grown up in this age where every social interaction takes place over the video app Zoom. (See also “quaranteen”).  2 Historical/archaic: Adults from the baby boomer generation who think they’re cooler than they are. Example: “Sorry I’ve been MIA at work lately, I’ve got two Zoomers at home and they’re using up all the bandwidth on group Zoom calls with their friends.”

— C.P.

Zoom happy hour, n. | Definition: A social gathering on the video conferencing platform Zoom, especially one with co-workers, that boomed in popularity at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. These events help folks maintain sanity through socializing while simultaneously driving participants mad. Similar to a pre-COVID-19 happy hour, but shorter, more sober and less happy. Irish exits are, quizzically, harder to pull off than at an in-person happy hour. Example: “‘Glad we got the team together for Zoom happy hour! None of my jokes were landing, though.’ ‘You were muted the entire time, Fred. You’re also not funny.’”

— Trevor Lenzmeier, features desk editor