«Thought-shifting-words: Corona has created new terms»

The virus has infected the mind with new words and word meanings. They are historic pictures of our time.

A Word List by Thomas Oberender

When I entered the word VERKEHRSWENDE (the German term for the conversion of transport and mobility to sustainable energy sources, etc.) into my smartphone some time ago now, the auto-correction tool changed it to VERKEHRSWEGE  (transport routes). The system corrects me based is known. But it is capable of learning. Thousands of users have since typed this word into search masks, thus changing the algorithm. With all the ensuing words, I was like this algorithm – most of the terms I entered in this list for 2020 would have said nothing, or something completely different, to me only one year before.

In 2019 what did I think Aussteigerkarte (the identification card for passengers getting off the train or air plain) could mean? Pandemic research, politics and the media have circulated vocabulary such as R-value, incidence and triage, and completely transformed the meaning of terms such as Querdenker (lateral thinker or covidiot, depending on your viewpoint) and Risikoperson (at-risk person). Words regrew like organic material, penetrated inhospitable areas, overrunning them with comprehension – never have I grasped language to be as much of a tool and a political issue as I have in the Corona period.

For years I have been writing down words that make processes of change conspicuous. The flow of words that came to me this year is simultaneously a kind of progress report on the pandemic and its side effects and an insight into the necessity of an ecopolitical turnaround.