No one was surprised that Merriam-Webster picked “pandemic” as its word of the year. Also making the Top 10 were “quarantine” and “asymptomatic.”

New lingo pops up every year, but it’s often tied to a popular trend, movie or entertainment and the new terms are used by a limited number of people. But pandemic jargon is universal.

And like all words and phrases, usually multiple definitions exist and their meaning can be different to various people.

The pandemic vernacular is no different:

Remote working: The realization that after all those years of working eight hours a day in the office you really only needed four hours to do all the things you had to do and spent the other four hours looking busy, talking to co-workers about TV shows and wasting time.

• A condition in which the extra time working at home with your spouse rekindles the passion in your marriage, brings you closer and reminds you why you fell in love with them.

• A condition in which the extra time working at home with your husband — as you look at him in the same boxer shorts and T-shirt reading “With beer and Duct Tape I can fix anything” he’s worn all week — leads you to start searching the Yellow pages for “divorce lawyers.”

• A condition in which the extra time working at home with your wife — and hearing her repeat, “All my friends were right about you” — leads you to ask her if you can see the Yellow Pages when she’s done with them.

Ventilator: A word that moves even COVID-deniers to put on a mask and wash their hands frequently — just in case they might be wrong.

Distance learning: A term that gives students a new appreciation for the math teachers, annoying classmates, smelly locker rooms and school lunches that they used to detest.

• A term that leads parents to pledge they will never again criticize anything school staff does.

Day drinker: A reference to parents with school-age children (i.e., After two weeks of home schooling, Shelly became a day drinker.)

Peacetime emergency: A declaration allowing Gov. Walz to announce various restrictions on businesses, schools and everyday life — something he does in a suit and tie. Out in the field, he often manages the pandemic in a lumberjack shirt, leading some critics to dub him the “Flannel Fuhrer.”

Isolation: Something that proves to the anti-social portion of the population that they were right all along.

Herd immunity: A medical concept espoused by public health officials that doesn’t take into account that herds, when becoming too impatient, tend to stampede.

Vaccine rollout: A term the public loses trust in when they realize the delivery trucks rolling out the vaccines only have two wheels on them.

Light at the end of the tunnel: What everyone is embracing.

Tim Krohn can be contacted at or 507-344-6383.

React to this story:


Trending Video

Recommended for you