I might not write that expression many more times in my life. I might actually have never written it before to be honest, but I’m probably less likely to use it from now on.
Just as I might not mention that yawning, for example, is contagious very often. And that would of course be due to the current coronavirus pandemic.
One thing I’ve been thinking since the virus has spread in the last week or so and efforts to contain it have become more severe, is that the pandemic is going to have significant effects for a long time. It’s certainly going to have an economic effect, but it will also probably affect how we interact with people, how we think about our own health, and it might well affect the language we use.
Not that we’ll consciously decide to stop using words associated with a pandemic like contagious or infectious. Rather it’ll be something that might naturally happen, as our brains choose not to reach for those words, and opt for less-troubling synonyms or expressions instead.
Going viral, viral video et al though, will probably escape unscathed. They’re so attached to their figurative that very few of us actually think of a virus when we hear those expressions. The fact that the adjective viral is used, and not the word virus itself, probably helps.
I thought I might feel a little sad at the thought of the language losing some expressions. But it’s just the natural ebb and flow of every language, as some expressions fall by the wayside, and others become popular.
And this can happen fast. It’s interesting to compare journalism and other online writing from now with that of ten years or so ago. We’re now much more careful, and, for want of a less-loaded term, politically correct, as the sharing of information online has made us so much more aware of the points of view of others, and how language could be accordingly insulting or offensive.
Whether Corona are considering changing the name of their beer however, remains to be seen!