2020 brought us unprecedented events, challenges and words. Inspired Traveler brought this interesting news to our attention in their article, “COVID-19, the word of the year, male and female at the same time.”

History will remember the term, which designates the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as COVID-19. The word is constituted by the International Committee of Taxonomy of Viruses, whose role it is to determine these names. The World Health Organization (WHO) named it in a press release in early February 2020.

In some languages, words are defined as male or female. So where does COVID-19 fall? There are many imported words that are not clearly masculine or feminine (i.e. Bermuda shorts, camping, karma, sushi). Like those, COVID-19 is primarily masculine in everyday language. At least in France.

In the other French-speaking countries that do not have an institution for the standardization of French, they observe fluctuations.

Healthcare challenges, economical interruptions, housing issues – are all byproducts of an international public health crisis. Language category confusion was not something anyone saw coming.

Melody K. Smith

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