Will this nonsense language dull our reality or will we be bored to death before the virus reaches us?

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If we “self-isolate”, I suspect we are not just closing our front doors. We are also isolating meaning, destroying semantics, misusing our language, mixing cliché with weary metaphor. It won’t make the virus go away, but it will self-isolate the words we speak. Perhaps for a long time. And be sure, there will be more of them.

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I’m tempted, of course, to start with the literally morbid “herd immunity”. But let’s start with Boris Johnson’s first cowardly introduction to the idea that old people will die more quickly than young people. You might think that a mature, adult prime minister would treat his people to the realities of death. Death, after all, is what makes coronavirus so frightening. If it constituted only a mild, non-lethal but more than unusually unpleasant flu, we wouldn’t be – most of us, that is – hiding at home in fear.

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