“The New Words for Our New Misery” – The New York Times

Check out our feature in the New York Times! Project leaders Dr. Betsy Sneller and Dr. Suzanne Wagner weigh in on how social distancing has affected language development. Along with our project, there are other reflections on the pandemic highlighted in this article. Click here to read the article.

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“Have you ever been Christmas caroling?”

Have you ever been Christmas caroling? I don't think we have. You've never been Christmas caroling? No, I have no idea what that means. You don’t know what Christmas caroling means? It means to sing to people in a group. You go Christmas caroling -- Actually I did in school once. Oh, that's true. You had that last year. Yeah, that was last year. But that was kind of more of like a pageant. That’s true. Do you have a favorite Christmas carol? That I sing? Yes, or just whatever. It doesn't have to be you, but. I can make up one. You can! Cool. Let's see it. Let's hear it. I think I need to work it on when I play Among Us because it's gonna be Among Us holiday theme song. Oh, okay. Well, what's your favorite Christmas song? Jingle Bells. Jingle Bells.  (singing) Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.

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“Looking back at the beginning of all of this, it was really surreal for me.”

This audio contains language that has been redacted in the transcript but not in the audio file. Looking back at the beginning of all of this, it was really surreal for me. Because I, at the time was living in a really rural area, like back in the beginning of this year, I was in Southern Illinois, and so like -- a lot of it just didn't really feel real. I was like what is going on? Like what's going on in these big cities? Like what is this disease? I really distinctly remember sitting in my bathroom and playing Plague Inc. I think is the game, like on my phone. And this is like early -- early March, maybe late February, like back when it was like, maybe we had the first couple of cases that had come to the states. And I was just like oh s***, like --excuse me--just kind of had this like oh s*** moment of like this is -- this is gonna get big, and this is a problem.

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“I think that our adaptations are kinda working as best they can.”

Okay, let's see today, uh, this week. One thing I've been really grateful for is I've been thinking about all the ways that we have been able to connect. I, um, gosh at the beginning of the pandemic we started -- I started a book club with a couple of other women, and I think we've met in person outside once, like at a bonfire. But I'm realizing that all of our meetings have been over zoom, and it still felt like a really good connection with people I might not have been otherwise connected with. So, when we started it we were like, "Oh we'll just do this meeting by zoom and maybe next time we’ll", you know, I had no intention of -- obviously no knowledge that we were gonna just do everything by zoom for nine months. But anyway, it's been really nice and um, I know, like, my mom has like, had a lot of zoom meetings with her sorority sisters from college that she had lost track of. And they've really been very, um, committed to meeting once a month. And just really, it's developed some really good relationships there I know for her. And, um I think that our adaptations are kinda working as best they can.

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“So we’ve got some really awesome makeshift ornaments…”

This featured diary story is from one of our student team members, Lindsay Moore. And so we -- I go home and I get this Christmas tree and bring it to my house and we set it up and then we get into a decorating spirit. And my roommates and I just start grabbing everything in the house that could possibly go on the tree, whether it’s got a string attached or there's a hole that you can fit a branch through or maybe it's light enough it can just set on the tree or cause it's a fake tree, it's wiry we bent the branches around to hold things. So we've got some really awesome makeshift ornaments like we put some of our kitchen utensils, like a pie cutter or we have some sewing scissors. And yeah, we have random pamphlets we've gotten in the mail. Just anything we could find is on the tree. And so yeah, I actually really love the tree. I think I'm gonna decorate my tree like this every year because the tree is, it's still really beautiful and it's still at first glance when you walk you just see this beautiful Christmas tree. There's -- there's enough Christmas like ornaments like we have like a Snowman or Santa Claus on it, but we also have like a pie cutter and so it's at first glance when people see it, they always go. “Oh you have such a beautiful Christmas tree,” and then you hear people go “Oh wait, hold on a second,” Like “is that what I think it is.” And so it adds to the excitement. Like now I want people to see or tree and enjoy what I'm looking -- what I made with my roommates.

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“Working in the healthcare system, I’m very stressed.”

How has my week been? Working in the healthcare system, I'm very stressed. I'm-- I feel like I'm always behind in whatever task I'm assigned. The number of mobile or portable studies that we've had to do has gone through the roof, and that puts a certain strain on our department. And I know my coworkers are feeling the strain and the stress of it, just as acutely as I am. We're all burnt out, we're understaffed and because of the regulations that have been put in place, the normal things that our employer may have tried to do to show their appreciation such as, you know, letting us bring food into work and have a pot luck or you know, providing us pizza once in a while, something like that. Those regulations have put a stop to all of those. Um, actually just this week they instituted a new policy that our break room, which also functions as our locker room, is supposed to be limited to four people any one time. When there are probably close to sixty people that are assigned to use that locker room and break room. We're supposed to stagger our breaks so that only four people are in there at any given time, and if we have to remove our masks to eat, we're supposed to face the walls and not talk to each other. So, they've certainly done a lot that is making us feel even more isolated and more unappreciated. All in the name of trying to keep us safe.

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“My face was the only unmasked face he saw for the first hour of his life.”

I began my maternity leave a week early. A week before my due date, I should say, to give myself some time to decompress from the insane few months of work I had endured. Instead, I had one day off and then went into labor that night. We arrived at the hospital at 1 A.M. and we didn't see a single soul besides the hospital staff at the COVID screening station. My husband pushed me in a wheelchair he found in the breezeway, and they looked at my white face as my husband explained that I was in labor, bleeding heavily, and needed to go up to labor and -- labor and delivery immediately. They slapped a surgical mask on me and whisked me away, my husband following after he went back outside to park the car. I remained masked the entire time, except when I had an oxygen mask on instead. My son was born at 10 A.M. Healthy, pink and screaming. My face was the only unmasked face he saw for the first hour of his life. He was perfect and here, and suddenly all of my pandemic anxiety was shifted to him. It was the beginning of our beautiful, stressful baby bubble. The next twelve weeks were mostly blissful. We had the new parent struggles, but we were happy in our baby bubble. We only took my son to the pediatrician, and on long walks where we dip into a driveway or roll into the street if we passed somebody who didn't do the same. I'd always imagined my maternity leave would include mornings on the back porch with my friend, who was another new mom, sipping coffee in the sun while our babies nap next to us. I imagined walking around Target with him in a stroller, strangers stopping us to peer in at his fresh baby face, browsing baby clothes because he was outgrowing his current wardrobe. He's eight months old and I've never done any of those things. He's never interacted with another baby before. None of my friends have ever held him. His own grandparents have only briefly held him, masked outside. I wonder if we'll grow up stunted in some social way, having never shared a toy with a baby his age or even interacted with anybody within thirty years of his age. I wonder if he'll be closer with us, or…

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“You think long pants an a long shirt cause you to be sick.”

Have you ever stayed home sick from school? Yes. One day I had these like long short -- pants and then I just got sick. That's why I always have to wear shorts and short sleeves. You think long pants and a long shirt caused you to be sick. Well it caused me to be really hot and remember that day, I just became sick. I don't know why. It had nothing to do with your long pants and shirt. Whatever. Okay. Do you get to eat special food when you're sick? I don't know, I get to play video-- Maybe you have like more popsicles or something. Yes. I don’t know you haven’t really gotten sick, so knock on wood.

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