When it comes to relationships, coronavirus has changed everything from courtship to cohabitation: enter a new language of love to cover dating, dumping and divorce. Has a friend told you about their evening spent engaged in “coronalingus” just as you were recovering from a brutal “zumping”? Maybe you know a devoted “Cuomosexual”. If you want to find love in a lengthy lockdown, or simply preserve your wilting relationship, it can help to learn the lingo.
ドライブスルーお見合い (doraibusurū o miai)
Drive-through matchmaking (noun)
The Japanese road to love
Before the pandemic, Japanese singles on the hunt for a spouse would often trade flirtatious glances at parties and other events set up by dating agencies. The coronavirus outbreak has put a damper on face-to-face rendezvous, but not on lonely hearts’ determination to find love. Now that mass gatherings risk contagion, businesses are adapting. A number of matchmaking firms are seeing a spike in interest from people eager to tie the knot and are connecting couples via online omiai (matchmaking) sessions: singletons chat and assess their compatibility via computer screens – sometimes while engaging in on-nomi (online drinking).
Some of the more entrepreneurial agencies have gone a step further. These are now organising drive-through omiai, in which singles flirt with one another from their cars, in the empty car parks of wedding halls. Cooped up in their homes alone for months, lonely and anxious about the future, more and more singletons are willing to try novel forms of omiai to find companionship, even if that involves awkward introductions from the car seat. At least if the date goes badly, they can make a quick getaway.
To get down to it (virtually) during lockdown (verb)
Sexting is even dirtier during a pandemic
Lustful couples separated by the lockdown are no longer restricted to husky utterances down the phone or typo-strewn dirty messages tapped out via predictive text (“your duck is what now?”). Instead they can swap multi-megapixel masterpieces of their genitalia in seconds. During the pandemic “sexting”, a portmanteau that strikes fear into the hearts of prudish parents, has evolved into “coronalingus” (not to be confused with the Irish airline).
The word is misleading: tonguing a grubby touch-screen is more likely to lead to anosmia than an orgasm. A more tasteful term might be “farplay” (foreplay from a distance). Either way, plenty of people are at it. Snapchat, an app on which people can send each other images that disappear once they’ve been viewed, added 11m daily users as lockdowns came into force (not all were after sexual gratification, of course). Dating apps have introduced video-dates, which inevitably lead to virtual one-night stands. Some people are looking for love. Others are merely seeking to ease their frustration during lockdown, with no intention of meeting when restrictions lift. At least a smartphone fling dispenses with the walk-of-shame in the morning.
A devotee of Andrew Cuomo (noun)
The allure of an eloquent politician
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, has had a better pandemic than most political leaders. Epidemiologists commended his early decision to lock down the state of New York. But it’s not only scientists who have praised him. A growing number of locked-down Americans, sex-deprived and stuck inside watching cable news, have become devotees of the governor for his articulate and empathetic response to the crisis: enter the “Cuomosexual”.
This brigade has some high-profile members. Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” declared himself a Cuomosexual live on “The Ellen Show” – the host, Ellen Degeneres, replied “I feel like I’m a Cuomosexual too.” Randy Rainbow, an American comedian, has written a song and launched a clothing line dedicated to the governor: in bright pink typeface jumpers, vests and t-shirts declare, “From now on I identify as a Cuomosexual”. He sells Cuomosexual mugs, face masks and tote bags, too. At the time of writing, Andrew Cuomo is still believed to be single.
The act of ending a relationship during a Zoom call (noun)
Digital dumping is a despicable deed
Your phone lights up and a blue square floods the screen: an invitation to a Zoom meeting with your boyfriend. You join the call. “We need to talk,” crackles a tinny voice. This, you soon realise, is a “zumping”.
Singles rarely dated on video calls before covid-19. Now it’s normal for quarantined lovers to flirt through a webcam, dressed in a crisp shirt and joggers. Zoom, a video-conferencing service, has conquered both work and social life during the pandemic. Yet some have grown frustrated with quarandating on video calls, which can leave participants feeling drained and detached from the figure in Zoom’s tiny box.
Coronanoia – paranoia induced by the conditions of lockdown – is already a problem for many. On Zoom, non-verbal cues like eye contact and hand gestures are hard to pick up from blurry pixels. Speakers are interrupted and audio lags. Sensitive conversations often feel even more cold and awkward than they do in person. And throughout your conversation a red button on the screen screams “End”. Many users decide to do just that.
Coronavirus and chill
To watch (virtually) a film or TV show with your quarantined partner (verb)
Your ticket out of inane digital dates
It’s several months into lockdown and you’ve run out of things to say. But don’t worry: you no longer need to talk during digital dates. Let Gordon Ramsay’s screams at prostrate sous-chefs flirt for you. It’s time to “coronavirus and chill”: watch a film or TV show in sync with your virtual partner, while also on a call with them.
Many couples who have been quarantined apart use Netflix Party, a popular app that links participants’ devices so they can watch the same stream at the same time (the service is not affiliated with Netflix). Others use Zoom and count down from three, then press play on separate screens. Some duos use this virtual cinema as a chance to debate the themes of the shows they watch, as if they were Demosthenes in a digital amphitheatre. More frazzled pairs prefer quieter contemplation. All worry about technical problems and the dreaded “lag”.
Video-dates can feel formal, transactional and exhausting. But “coronavirus and chill” lets lovers enjoy shared silence. No longer forced to squeeze out 30 minutes on their equally boring days, there is room for idle chatter – which is not the case in a purposeful catch-up or a frenetic quiz. It is a shared experience during a lockdown often lacking in such things. A new kind of “Love Island”?
To use Tinder while in quarantine (verb)
Going Dutch in a pandemic
Over the past few months Ton den Boon, editor-in-chief of the Van Dale Dutch dictionary, has collated a list of new, coronavirus-themed neologisms in Dutch. There are more than 700. Most are compound words such as Hoestschammte (the shame you feel if you cough in public) and Quarantinderen (to use Tinder during lockdown).
Den Boon attributes the length and variety of his list to Dutch creativity and a desire to express Dutch originality through language. There are only about 24m native Dutch speakers, and many of them want to keep the tongue relevant by adding timely new words. They rarely mince them, however. Health officials said in May that quarantined singles should arrange a steady seksbuddy (sex buddy) to reduce their overall social contact. For those without a buddy at hand, Tinder, which is among the most popular dating apps in the Netherlands, saved the day.
A covid-induced break-up (noun)
A plague of parting
The saying that familiarity breeds contempt has proved to be true for many couples forced to spend endless months together in covid confinement. Studies have shown that prolonged periods of proximity, such as Christmas and other holidays, often lead to a spike in squabbling as couples have to face underlying problems in their relationships. The coronavirus pandemic has had all the elements of a prolonged, housebound Christmas, without the presents or the turkey. Now, as governments around the world are loosening national lockdowns, divorce lawyers are bracing themselves for the uptick in “covidivorce” – separations sparked by the strain of 24/7 interdependence.
As well as the constant proximity, many relationships are also under strain over financial anxieties, child care and domestic work. Such tensions may inspire some people to leave marriages they have long been unhappy in. The emotional corona-coaster continues.
Some couples are turning to counselling to work through their problems. Others have reached the end of the road. Co-op Legal Services has experienced a 42% increase in enquiries about divorce in Britain over the period of lockdown, compared with the same period last year. Similar trends have been reported in other countries around the world, including America, Australia and Saudi Arabia. The new disease has found many ways to shatter lives.
冷静期 (lěngjìng qī)
1. Cooling-off period (noun)
2. A 30-day wait to get a divorce in China
The Chinese government wants couples to keep calm and carry on
When parts of China started opening up again in April, there were reports of a sudden spike in divorces. From Shanghai to Shenzhen couples seeking to separate besieged the newly reopened government offices to register for divorces.
China is among the easiest and cheapest places in the world to annul a marriage. The Chinese authorities decided to change that. Within weeks of lockdown loosening, the government introduced a 30-day wait between a couple applying for a divorce and that split being officially recognised. The idea was to give people time to change their minds. Hours after the government announcement, the term “cooling-off period” went viral on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.
Some Weibo users found the term funny, using “cooling off” to mock couples who couldn’t stand being cooped up in quarantine together. Others pointed out that the law could put domestic-abuse victims in danger for a further 30 days. Charities that help victims of domestic violence in both Beijing and Hubei have reported an uptick in incidents during lockdown. Many commenters used another popular hashtag: “oppose the cooling-off period”.
Others praised the plan. China’s divorce rate has been rising since 2003, when the country’s divorce laws were relaxed. In parts of China the divorce rate approaches that of America. That causes angst in a country that likes to tout its respect for traditional family values – and where the workforce is shrinking. The authorities must hope that some couples found something to do other than argue during lockdown: will there be a spike in coronababies in nine months’ time?