On Quarantines (and ‘Cornteens’ too)

It is not surprising that a lot of new words have been added to our lexicon–or at least to the Urban Dictionary–through this COVID-19 crisis. We always pick up some new terminology during unique seasons, and that is especially true in an age of social media, and in a time when because of the quarantine, people have lots of time on their hands. Our vocabularies have especially expanded during this crazy time.

There are some obvious words and phrases that we had never even heard of two months ago that we throw around now like we’ve been saying them all of our lives, such as: “social distancing,” “shelter-in-place,” and “flatten the curve,” among others. But there are others, mostly humorous wordplay, perhaps born of “gallows humor” in a time of quarantine, that have evolved as we try to cope with stress in a difficult time. 

There are even have multiple words to refer to the virus itself:  COVID-19, coronavirus, or just plain ‘Rona (or even Aunt Rona). We even named our new puppy Rona, since we got her in the  middle of this pandemic. For a little more background “corona” means crown, and she’s quickly established herself as the crown princess at our house, so the name was fitting.

I felt pretty clever and original the first week of our livestream when I referred to the pandemic as the “coronapocalypse” in a sermon, but all the cool kids are saying that now, and it’s become old news. As has “Coronageddon.” It was only a matter of time before that one showed up. (Remember Snowmageddon?) 

For those furloughed workers or students who suddenly had no place to go, it was time for a “coronacation.” Among the other slang terms are “covidiots” and “moronavirus,” usually reserved for those who are not handling the crisis the way you think it should be handled. And then of course, there’s the “covidivorce,” for those who just could not make it through a month or so of being alone with their soul mate.

One of my favorites–and I’m not sure if it was intentional at first–but it has become a fun term, is “cornteen.” I’m thinking that’s a Southern thing. So, you might be a redneck… if you’ve ever had a cornteen coronacation with a bunch of other covidiots that led to your covidivorce.

I guess we need to laugh some in stressful times, especially when we feel scared and confused and isolated. I would dare say that most of us have never been quarantined for anything in our lives, unless it was maybe chicken pox when we were kids. Even that word–quarantine–is kind of scary and not something we have used very often in our lives.

There’s a Facebook post or meme that has been circulating the last week or so about quarantines, which I bring up here because of today’s date. It begins, “The official lockdown started March 23 and will likely end May 1. That is EXACTLY 40 days.”

It goes on to mention that the Latin root of the word quarantine is “forty,” which is correct. In fact, a standard quarantine that was imposed on a human or animal suspected of carrying an infectious or contagious disease usually lasted 40 days, and that’s where it got its name. 

And if you have read the Bible much, you know that there is a significance for the number 40 throughout the Scripture. For instance, Noah’s flood lasted 40 days (and 40 nights); Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness, and later 40 days on Mount Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments. The Israelites’ exodus from Egypt to the promised land, including their wandering in the wilderness, lasted 40 years. And Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert at the beginning of His ministry.

All of those examples are times of change, and times of preparation. And we can certainly say that about our time of “quarantine” in 2020. It has been a time of change for most of us, and I believe it is God’s time of preparing us in this version of the wilderness for something far greater. 

May He use these 40 days–and the days to come–to work in us, to change our hearts, and prepare us for the ministry He has for us that will impact our community and our world with His gospel. I am grateful for each of you, and I pray the Lord’s blessing on you and your family. Be wise, be safe, and be faithful.

–Pastor Ken