‘Historical Dictionary of the Spanish Language’: Coronaplauso, covidiota … The virus also spreads throughout the language | Culture


A woman consults the word coronavirus in the 'Historical Dictionary of the Spanish Language'.
A woman consults the word coronavirus in the ‘Historical Dictionary of the Spanish Language’.David G. Folgueiras

There are words that are like people. They are born, they develop, they have a family and they disappear. Or they can, to differentiate themselves from humans, live for centuries. Putting the magnifying glass on the biography of some chosen voices is the work of the Historical Dictionary of the Spanish Language, a work only available online, coordinated by the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) with its 22 sister academies of the language. This Tuesday its tenth update was presented at the institution’s headquarters. The revamped dictionary adds 715 terms, to add up to 6,325. Among them, the word probably most feared on the entire planet for a year, coronavirus. This voice, says the Historical Dictionary, was documented for the first time in 1980, with the meaning of “virus of the family Coronaviridae, that causes respiratory and intestinal diseases in people and animals ”. This is how the Pig Disease Guide, de J. A. Chipper.

The coronavirus entry adds: “As of 2020, a global pandemic focuses on a specific virus, that of the genus Betacoronavirus type 2 that can cause covid; the name of the virus is accompanied by the acronym (English) of the disease it causes, in such a way that it is called the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, in an article published in EL PAÍS, on February 25 of that year ”.

From coronavirus, it is included as a derived voice crownplause, or what happened at 8:00 p.m. every day in the first weeks of the pandemic: “Synchronized applause from the population to thank the work of essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.” It was used in August 2020, in an article published in Epidemics and Global Health, blog of the Spanish Society for the History of Medicine. Will there be a covidioma? At least the word is already here: “It is documented with the meaning of vocabulary created during the covid pandemic.” It was in June 2020, in the newspaper Last minute, from Paraguay. From another post, The New York Times, the word was traced crownbaby, to form coronababé: “Baby born during the pandemic”. In March 2020 it was included in the Argentine digital newspaper Infobae.

During the event, the director of the RAE, Santiago Muñoz Machado, stressed that this work is “a core project” of the institution. For this reason he announced the creation of the Pan-Hispanic Network of Academies, Universities and Centers for the elaboration of the Historical Dictionary of the Spanish Language. There are 18 groups, nine of them in Spain and nine in America, which from now on “will work to study the history of words in a coordinated way,” he said. The Minister of Science and Innovation, Pedro Duque, congratulated himself on an initiative that, as in the case of the word coronavirus, helps to combat “a science flooded with Anglicisms.”

Another coronavirus-related medicine word is covid. The Historical Dictionary review that it is the “acute infectious disease, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which affects the respiratory tract.” It was first named as covid-19 “to give a name to the disease that emerged in 2019.” Among the voices that he adds, covidiota can be pointed out. Who has not come across the “person who refuses to comply with the health regulations dictated to prevent the spread of covid”? In March 2020 it was used in the newspaper 20 minutes. And with it, autocovid (which is to be tested for the virus in the car), covidianity (the life we ​​have led every day since this began) and covidioma (vocabulary of the pandemic), which could be classified in a covidictionary .

From the family of the word horn, the rare horn is striking, as something that is done in a disorderly way

Leaving medicine aside, Muñoz Machado noticed, for example, the word cetme, familiar to those who have completed military service in Spain, for being the rifle with which they learned to shoot. Well, it is the acronym for Center for Technical Studies of Special Materials, “institution created in 1948 by the Ministry of War for the study of military products.” It was already documented as a weapon in 1957, in an article published in Phalanx: Evening Diary, where it was announced: “The German army is testing this new Spanish rifle.” To continue with shots, enter the history of the word revolver in this dictionary. It comes from English and in Spanish it is for the first time in the memoirs of a politician, Antonio Alcalá Galiano, written between 1847 and 1849.

Then there are sounds that come to the dictionary from the hand of musical instruments, such as the horn. That “long tube with a conical section folded circularly on itself, with a mouthpiece and wide outlet pavilion, and generally equipped with some mechanism that allows certain notes to be produced” was already in 1250, in the Book of Alexandre, work in verse that glossed the life of Alexander the Great. From the family of the horn, the rare word horn is striking, which with an a in front means “in abundance” and which has been documented since 1760. It is also doing things “in a hasty and disorderly way.

Another popular instrument whose name many may not know despite having used it is the piopollo. It is that “iron bar in the shape of a horseshoe or fork, which is held with one hand between the teeth so that the mouth acts as a resonator, and with a steel reed in the middle that is made to vibrate with the index of the other. hand”. It is recorded in 1917 in a note to an edition of the Exemplary novelsby Cervantes.

With this project, the RAE wants to break with the ill-fated history of the Historical Dictionary. Its development began well into the 20th century, when in Germany, for example, this work had begun in 1838; in France it was in 1844, and in England, in 1857. The RAE included it in its statutes in 1848, but it did not start until 1914, when the politician Antonio Maura was the director of the institution. It was not until 1933 that Volume 1, that of the letter A, was released. In 1936 the second was published, but the task was interrupted by the Civil War. In 1946 it was resumed “and between 1960 and 1996 23 fascicles were published,” said Muñoz Machado. Now a year ago 704 articles were included. Muñoz Machado’s wish is that in five years, “thanks to the new equipment and technology, it will go from the current 6,325 to about 25,000 articles”.


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