Writing about COVID-19

COVID-19 is an Acronym

Coronavirus is the designation for the virus causing the disease called COVID-19, an acronym.

Let us go step by step:

  • An acronym is a sequence of letters representing words.
  • CO stands for “corona”,
  • VI for “virus” and D for “disease”: the 2019 coronavirus disease.
  • In other words, we’re talking about the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Since it is an acronym, the sequence of letters is pronounced as a word, as opposed to the sequence of an abbreviation, which is not (e.g. USA).

In languages other than English, whose nouns have a grammatical gender, the relevant article and agreement system should be used when writing the acronym. In addition, as with all acronyms and abbreviations, this acronym should also be exclusively written in capital letters: COVID (not “Covid”).

Epicentre ≠ centre

The word “epicentre” is a geophysical term, meaning “the point on the earth’s surface directly above an earthquake or atomic explosion” (Cambridge Dictionary). Now, if we were to use this seismic metaphor to talk about COVID-19, the epicentre would always be China, as this is the country that was first hit by the problem.

When people say Europe is now the “epicentre” of the pandemic, they actually mean it has become the “centre” of it, but the two words are not synonymous.


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