The pandemic has been a time ripe with new words to describe the strangeness and trauma billions of people have experienced over the past year.
English-speakers have come up with clever terms like “covidiot” and “quarantini” – words Hinrichs says are “blends.”
German-speakers, on the other hand, are masters at using compound words to describe pandemic life. Compound words bring multiple words together, without spaces. Hinrichs, a native German speaker, says he was tickled by words like klopapierhamstern, or “toilet paper hamster,” and maskenpickel, or “mask pimple.”
“In German that would automatically then be spelled without a space between those words, whereas a less complicated language like English leaves a wide space between those words,” Hinrichs said. “And only when something has been around for a few hundred years does English drop the white space in the spelling.”
Two pandemic-related words were born in Texas. They came out of the combined calamity of COVID-19 and the February winter storm and statewide power outage: “snowvid21” and “ERCOT-palypse.”
Hinrichs says new words are created every day, but they usually don’t last. Only a few stick around if there’s a “continued need,” he said.
In this case, Hinrichs says he hopes these words soon become a thing of the past.