Are you feeling Coronamüder (coronatired) from all the virusangst (virus angst) and Zoomfatigue (Zoom fatigue)? You’re not alone.
COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we live and feel. It’s also brought some big changes to the language we use, not least in Germany where over 1,200 words have recently been coined to describe the strange reality of living through the pandemic.
The Leibniz Institute for the German Language, an organization that documents the ever-changing German language, has compiled a lengthy list of all the new words that have entered the lexicon of Germans since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The German language is filled with inventive examples of compound words, words that consist of two or more vocabulary items. For example, there is the word “der Kummerspeck,” which translates to “sorrow bacon,” used to describe excess weight gained from comfort eating. There’s also “weltschmerz,” which translates to “world-weariness” or “world pain” (or more specifically, the sense of grief at how the world keeps falling short of expectation), and “die Nacktschnecke,” which translates as “naked slug,” better known as a slug.
The many new experiences seen over the course of the pandemic have provided fertile ground for the spawning of new words. Face masks were not widely used by people in Germany before the pandemic, but their proliferation has added a handful of neologisms: Alltagsmaske (everyday mask), Spuckschutzschirm (spit protection umbrella), Schnutenpulli (snout sweater), and Gesichtskondom (facial condom).
Many facets of life in the COVID-19 pandemic are covered by this new vocabulary of words. For example, you might say, the early days of the pandemic saw a Klopapierhysterie (toilet paper hysteria) whereby gangs of Klopapierhamstern (toilet paper hamsters) rushed to the shops to panic buy toilet rolls.
Social behavior has dramatically changed in the new Anderthalbmetergesellschaft (one-and-a-half-meter society) unless you are a Quarantänebrecher (a quarantine breaker). Instead of going to a bar to meet friends, you might opt for an Abstandsbier (distance beer) and pick up some dinner from a Ghostrestaurant (an empty restaurant that now only serves takeaway food). However, you can’t order the sausages because of the Schweinestau (pig jam, shortages of pork products). Instead of hugging goodbye, you’ll give each other a quick Fußshake (footshake).
With hairdressers and gyms being closed, many people may be rocking a Coronamähne (coronavirus mane) and carrying a little extra Coronaspeck (coronaham, weight gained during the pandemic). Coronaleugner (corona-deniers) have been busy on the Internet, spreading Verschwörungserzählung (conspiracy theories) and Impfverschwörung (vaccine conspiracies).
Researchers who have been keeping an eye on this new lingo say they haven't seen such a sudden explosion of new German words since World War II. They argue that the mushrooming of new words in troubled times shows the creativity and fluidity of human communication, but also highlights the deep need for us to share and express our experiences with others.
"When new things happen in the world [we] look for a name," Dr Christine Möhrs, a researcher at the Leibniz Institute for the German Language, told the Guardian. "Things that do not have a name can cause people to feel fear and insecurity. However, if we can talk about things and name them, then we can communicate with each other. Especially in times of crisis, this is important."