This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Birbal Jha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Explained: The Linguistic Impact Of Covid-19 And The Words That Led To Its Coinage 

More from Birbal Jha

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

‘Covid-19’ is one of the newly coined words that have come into fashion in every nook and cranny of the world. For some months, there hasn’t been a day when this word has not popped up when watching TV or reading news or reports on health or having general conversations.


What Led To The Most Dreaded Word Of 2020: Covid-19?

Let’s take a look at how such words are coined and further gain currency in our communications, thus becoming a part of a dictionary for reference. The acronym Covid-19 is made of corona+ virus+ disease + 2019. The derivative is written in both ways – all capital or small letters with its entry in almost all leading online dictionaries including the likes of Merriam Webster, Oxford, Collins, Cambridge.

Covid-19 is a sort of illness caused by a virus that looks like a corona i.e. a crown. Hence, the image of this tiny virus is represented by the shape of a crown. The coronavirus is a respiratory illness characterized by fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It affects the victim’s lungs to the extent of death. However, the mortality rate is low and the recovery rate is encouragingly higher. On the contrary, patients with comorbidity (multiple diseases and conditions) are at a higher risk.

Social distancing is yet another coinage doing the rounds. Since the novel coronavirus has no successful cure to date, this preventive step is very effective. Social distancing is however synonymous with physical distancing. Hence, they are interchangeably used. Nevertheless, social distancing is for keeping oneself away from all social gatherings and contacts in person whereas physical distancing is to avoid physical contact with any individual.

Covid-19 is not only infectious but also highly contagious. It spreads quickly from human to human through droplets of sneezing, spitting, and such. Thus, one infects another in series. Nobody is immunized enough to remain unaffected by this deadly microorganism. The proverb, ‘prevention is better than cure goes well with the current scenario of contagion.

corona sanitisation

‘No Handshake For Health Shake’: A Return To Indian Lifestyle

‘No handshake for health sake’ is desirable and advisable given the Covid-19 pandemic. The term ‘health sake was coined by Dr Birbal Jha, who had launched the ‘Namaste March‘ from New Delhi early this year intending to disseminate the message of how the Indian way of greeting is effective and can help in preventing the spread of the pandemic which allegedly originated from Wuhan, China. Dr Birbal Jha is a noted author and Managing Director of Lingua Multiservices Pvt Ltd which has a popular trademark brand, the ‘British Lingua’. He is credited with having created a revolution in English training with the slogan ‘English for all’ in India.

However, how it originated is a moot point and a subject of research. There are two theories. First that it is a biological weapon created in the testing lab of China as claimed by America. The second is that it germinated from the bat soup in China as shown in the movie Contagion. Let’s not jump to conclusions until research on the subject is made public. The role of the World Health Organization is said to be dubious in this context.  Such a situation poses many questions to WHO.

The Namaste culture is now global with representatives of different countries being seen putting their palms together and placing them in front of their hearts instead of extending their hands to shake with others. Time has drawn the attention of people across the world towards the efficacy of Indian greetings, lifestyle, and values in the wake of the contamination.

“Greeting with namaste is so easy.”, says Donald Trump, President of the U.S.A. Shake off the Western greetings like hugging or kissing at least for now. Life is better than gold.

Mind you, social distancing should not be misconstrued as a rejection of social interactions between individuals or different social groups. Rather, it is a tool to keep the virus at bay. God forbid! Mental distancing would be a catastrophe. We need to stay home and well connected with our loved ones. Wear masks and maintain social distancing and do your part in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

How Can We Stop The Spread Of Virus?

An outbreak is a sudden rise in the incidence of a disease (dis+ ease) whereas an epidemic is an outbreak of infection that spreads quickly in a particular area. An epidemic turns into a pandemic when it affects masses all over the world. The prefix ‘pan’ means all, such as pan India.

So who is a super spreader?

A patient who infects many others in their chain of contacts as witnessed in the state of Punjab is a super spreader. Also, a case in point is a particular religious congregation that was held in Delhi in early March 2020. A contagious disease takes the shape of a community spread once it outbursts in a particular neighbourhood.

For both preventive and remedial approaches, contact tracing is required to put the contacts of those infected in quarantine or isolation for some time, preferably at least 14 days. There is a semantic difference in these two words- quarantine applies to those who have a history of travel whereas isolation is applicable for those who merely came into contact with the infected person. However, functionality hardly differs.

Many people choose self-isolation once contact tracing is done and confirmed. Self-quarantine is a good preventive step to contain the spread of contagion. However, restricting people to stay home and disallowing them access to many facilities and movement from their house is a lockdown which the country was placed under in the interest of the masses.

Maintaining social distancing is the only way to flatten the curve of rising cases of the novel Covid-19 all across the world. To flatten the curve is to slow down the spiking graph of the number of people coming down with the unprecedented malady that has wreaked havoc.

Do Not Be A ‘Covidiot’

If you do not follow government advisories, official announcements, warnings, and orders during the period of the current pandemic, you will be called a ‘covidiot’. The word is self-explanatory as it is a combination of the two words, Covid-19 + idiot.  Moreover, you will be prosecuted with severe punishment.

A PPE Kit (Personal Protective Equipment) includes a surgical face mask, eyewear, gloves, head-cover, shoe-cover, and coverall which can be either disposable or autoclavable (a word originally limited to the medical fraternity prior to the Covid-19). Such medical jargon is now in common parlance. An N95 Mask is a respiratory protective cover designed to achieve a very close facial fit and efficient filtration of airborne particle. However, it is in short supply everywhere now.

A containment zone is an area identified as a Covid-19 hotspot, which is classified as a red zone. Orange and green zones are the two other specific areas which have no fresh cases or no cases at all respectively.

Using a sanitizer (liquid or gel to prevent infection) has become a part of life. In most social settings, frequent handwashing with soap and water is encouraged as a preventive measure. Sneezing, spitting, burping, or farting is a natural bodily discharge. However, each of them has a protocol to strictly follow. Take care! Spitting in public places is a punishable offense.

That is how words are coined, gain currency with the frequency of their use.

You must be to comment.

More from Birbal Jha

Similar Posts

By Saurav Shekhar

By Rajat Saxena

By Aaditya Kanchan

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below