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NEW WORDS
& WORLD AFTER
The world after: greener, more united, more
human, I believed in it. I am naturally optimistic but
today I stopped believing.
LANGUAGE EVOLVES,
SO DOES THE IMAGINARY
The evolution of a society is clearly reflected in its language. It is
only natural that the Larousse and the Robert, the two great
dictionaries of the French language, reflect this evolution. But
what do we find in the newer editions of these works? At the top
of the list are the words "Covid-19", "cluster", "télétravailler"
(teleworking), "vaccinodrome" (large vaccination center) and the
expressions "Click and Collect", “traçage numérique” (digital
tracing), “immunité collective” (collectiveimmunity) …
Other words have been updated, such as "confinement"
(lockdown). "Confinement" has definitely taken on a new color.
It now not only evokes imposed restrictions, but also a
suspended time undermined by diffuse fears, empty streets and
a succession of interminable days spent in front of a screen
displaying mosaics of faces.
The "écouvillon" (swab), according to late Aunt Madeleine’s
edition of the Robert, was used primarily by bakers to clean their
ovens or by hunters their weapons. It is now this large Q-tip l
ike the ones in the free self-tests that the Swiss can collect at
the pharmacy.
AROUND THE GLOBE
The contours those new words or meanings draw on our
universe are rather dull.
The anchoring of this specific vocabulary in our reference books
also reflects a reality that the "world after" would like us to
forget. Let’s stop dreaming. The virus that has been causing
sanitary, economic and social devastation globally is not going to
disappear. We have been warned: even if we are vaccinated, we
will still have to wear a mask. Well, not everywhere, not always,
but there is nothing extraordinary anymore in having your face
half covered. Doing a self-test before meeting family or friends
has become routine as well. The virus will stay, will continue to
mutate and to interfere with our lives.
To be honest, here in Switzerland, we are fine. But how do poor
people waiting for vaccines, plantation workers of the South,
Indians improvising funeral pyres in unlikely places, Brazilians
digging endless rows of graves, imagine the world after?
AND NOW,
WHAT DO WE DO?
Before, after. All the same. The awareness of those
indispensable tasks (not doable in the home office) performed
by people previously invisible but whom civil society has been
suddenly paying attention to, or even honoring as heroes, should
unfortunately not leave too many traces.
Café terraces are open – isn’t that what we are most concerned
about? The desire to return to the cinema or to concerts, to fly
with our "health pass" in our pocket to reach distant shores
bordering a sparkling sea.
A sea with a silver sheen that nonetheless carries new bodies
every day. Before, after, what does it change? Honestly.
Sylvie Castagné
Mai 2021

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«New Words & World After»

  • 1. ©Lisa5201,Getty Images NEW WORDS & WORLD AFTER The world after: greener, more united, more human, I believed in it. I am naturally optimistic but today I stopped believing. LANGUAGE EVOLVES, SO DOES THE IMAGINARY The evolution of a society is clearly reflected in its language. It is only natural that the Larousse and the Robert, the two great dictionaries of the French language, reflect this evolution. But what do we find in the newer editions of these works? At the top of the list are the words "Covid-19", "cluster", "télétravailler" (teleworking), "vaccinodrome" (large vaccination center) and the expressions "Click and Collect", “traçage numérique” (digital tracing), “immunité collective” (collectiveimmunity) … Other words have been updated, such as "confinement" (lockdown). "Confinement" has definitely taken on a new color. It now not only evokes imposed restrictions, but also a suspended time undermined by diffuse fears, empty streets and a succession of interminable days spent in front of a screen displaying mosaics of faces.
  • 2. The "écouvillon" (swab), according to late Aunt Madeleine’s edition of the Robert, was used primarily by bakers to clean their ovens or by hunters their weapons. It is now this large Q-tip l ike the ones in the free self-tests that the Swiss can collect at the pharmacy. AROUND THE GLOBE The contours those new words or meanings draw on our universe are rather dull. The anchoring of this specific vocabulary in our reference books also reflects a reality that the "world after" would like us to forget. Let’s stop dreaming. The virus that has been causing sanitary, economic and social devastation globally is not going to disappear. We have been warned: even if we are vaccinated, we will still have to wear a mask. Well, not everywhere, not always, but there is nothing extraordinary anymore in having your face half covered. Doing a self-test before meeting family or friends has become routine as well. The virus will stay, will continue to mutate and to interfere with our lives. To be honest, here in Switzerland, we are fine. But how do poor people waiting for vaccines, plantation workers of the South, Indians improvising funeral pyres in unlikely places, Brazilians digging endless rows of graves, imagine the world after? AND NOW, WHAT DO WE DO? Before, after. All the same. The awareness of those indispensable tasks (not doable in the home office) performed by people previously invisible but whom civil society has been suddenly paying attention to, or even honoring as heroes, should unfortunately not leave too many traces. Café terraces are open – isn’t that what we are most concerned about? The desire to return to the cinema or to concerts, to fly with our "health pass" in our pocket to reach distant shores bordering a sparkling sea. A sea with a silver sheen that nonetheless carries new bodies every day. Before, after, what does it change? Honestly. Sylvie Castagné Mai 2021