How Nicknames for the Pandemic Became a Popular Online Trend

People have a range of nicknames for the pandemic: a panorama, a pandemonium, a “pandemi moore,” a panini. Is humor a useful way to cope with incredibly difficult times?

By Evan Nicole Brown

You probably didn’t realize how many words begin with the prefix “pan-” until we found ourselves living through a pan … demic. On social media, we are in a “panorama,” a “pandemonium,” a “pandemi moore,” a “panini.”

Over the past year, a new lexicon has emerged online: “quarantinis” to describe at-home cocktails in quarantine; “stimmy” for stimulus checks; “doomscrolling” for your inability to go offline. These humorous phrases make intimidatingly scientific and medical jargon more accessible, and shorter versions of words often become useful because they are easily and quickly verbalized. Most of all, humor can be an important tool for processing these trying times. (A 15-year follow-up study of 53,556 participants from Norway found that having a sense of humor is also associated with living longer.)

“We’re manipulating the structure of the word,” said Adrienne R. Washington, a professor of sociocultural linguistics at Norfolk State University in Virginia. “We’re dropping syllables, like with ‘Rona,’ or sometimes we make them into diminutives, which are words that are more familiar or maybe even endearing.”

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