Words in the news

Dear Students,

The past few weeks have seen our world change dramatically, and with the change has come a change in our everyday language.

Take for example a news clip from a few days ago:

The coronavirus outbreak in Italy has now reached pandemic proportions. We are advising the elderly and vulnerable, particularly those with an underlying health condition to self-isolate. Anyone returning from abroad should be in quarantine for 14 days. Those with chronic heart/kidney/liver disease should be particularly careful in following social distancing measures.

The coronavirus is asyptomatic in its incubation period, which can last up to 14 days after exposure, but during that time it can still be contagious.

As it is a new virus we do not as yet have a vaccine, and no one has immunity with enough of the necessary antibodies in their blood to defend themselves against it.

The government does not want to enforce lockdown but this may become necessary if guidelines are not followed.


You might have heard something like this on the news, but think carefully.

  • How would you explain the underlined vocab?
  • And what is the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic?
  • The following are similar but different, how would you rate them, 1 the weakest, 4 the strongest:


Self-isolation, quarantine, social distancing, lockdown

  • If a symptom is a sign that you have an illness, what does asymptomatic mean?
  • If premature babies go into incubators and hens incubate their eggs, what does the incubation period for the virus mean?
  • Then there’s contagious and infectious, a contagious illness comes from contact and an infectious illness comes from infection. The virus is both.


But what is infectious laughter, infectious enthusiasm or an infectious sense of fun?

And what is contagious shyness, contagious guilt, contagious silliness?

The dictionaries explain that infectious, when it is not explaining illnesses, tends to be used of positive things whereas contagious is with negative things.

Well, it’s good to keep the grey cells moving while you’re sitting alone in your room!

Look for more tips on how to stretch your brain while we’re in lockdown.

This blog was written by Rebecca

Published on 28 March, 2023