RNA vaccine and vision board highlight new words for March

One year ago, in March 2020, there was a very clear theme linking many of the new words that were being added to Collins Dictionary. Terms such as social distancing, contact tracing, shutdown order, and superspreader were all catapulted into our everyday language by the coronavirus pandemic. A year on, these words are, unfortunately, still relevant. What is more, we can still see the influence of the pandemic in some of the words that have been added to the dictionary this March.

One example is lateral flow test, a technique employed as part of mass testing for the virus. This quick and simple test involves drawing a sample of liquid along a pad that is impregnated with chemicals; if this causes a chemical reaction, it can be assumed that the sample contains the substance being tested for. While the test is not quite as accurate as others that take longer to process, the speedy results available from lateral flow testing have helped institutions such as schools and care homes to operate more safely during the pandemic.

Another new entry this month is spike protein, which is the name of a protein which protrudes from the envelope of a coronavirus, giving the particle its distinctive appearance. It is these spike proteins that bind onto the surface of a host cell and enable the transmission of the virus. This particular feature has come to wider notice because it may help some new mutations of the virus to spread more rapidly. On the other hand, the spike also provides a target that some of the recently developed vaccines are able to use to help the human body fight off the virus.

Talking of vaccination, one particularly welcome addition to the dictionary this month is RNA vaccine (also called mRNA vaccine), which is a completely new type of vaccine that works by instructing the body’s cells to produce specific antigens that generate an immune response.

While the virus is still clearly having a significant effect on the language, it is perhaps notable that last year’s new words hinted at the spread of the virus and the subsequent restrictions that have been placed on many of us. This year, however, the new words for March reflect developments in the fight against the virus, with the new vaccines offering hope for a return to normal life.

If this puts you in an optimistic mood, you might be interested in another of this month’s new words: vision board. This is a notice board that you decorate with images, slogans, and quotations that reflect your personal goals. Looking at this collage of words and pictures on a regular basis is meant to inspire and encourage you to go on and achieve your dreams. Let’s hope that the next year allows us all to pursue our dreams unhindered by viruses and lockdowns.

Written by Ian Brookes, writer and editor.

All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.

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