Naming the Times: Quarantime

Nomenclature matters in everything from parenting and leadership to politics and crisis management. Words and labels shape opinion and drive emotional responses.

While the world wrestles with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been trying to come up with a neutral expression to label this current situation we find ourselves in—something that respects the severity of the situations without making it overwhelming.

Some world leaders have downplayed the situation to the detriment of their citizens. At the other end of the spectrum, media outlets have sensationalised, also disadvantaging people.

The purpose of this post is not to poke fun or diminish the seriousness of the current COVID-19 pandemic. These are scary times; people are stressed on many levels. The most important things everyone can do to slow the virus’s spread is practise both scrupulous hygiene and ‘self-distancing,’ and stay home as much as possible.

What I hope to do here is suggest a positive emotional response by reframing this dire situation into a more manageable schema. This is the power of labels.

Finding a Helpful Handle

As names go, pandemic has a PR problem because it is too similar to panic and pandemonium, both of which most people avoid like the… {ahem}, which most of us don’t enjoy.

I came across ‘global situation’ on Twitter and decided it’s way too vague. Which situation? At what stage? The COVID-19 pandemic is a dynamic beast, and every nation’s response is fluid.

I’ve used health crisis frequently in emails, but it’s clunky and negates the social, emotional, and economic toll of this thing.

Lock-down sounds militant and frightening to children, dogs, and extroverts, while time off is flippant and potentially irresponsible. For example, it could induce slackness in hygiene and vigilance or mess up people’s sleep-wake cycles.

Who wants isolation? In this climate of uncertainty, it’s hopeless and bleak and sounds downright lonely for everyone but hermits and lighthouse keepers.

And while we’re at it, the term social distancing seriously needs a makeover.

Quarantine is okay, except that it suggests sickness, e.g., I’m in quarantine = I am sick or I might have a communicable disease. If that’s true—if you’re sick or possibly sick, use it. But if everyone suddenly uses quarantine, some of the word’s power is lost.

For the rest of us, I propose we call this period Quarantime.

Quarantime is a term that conveys the seriousness of the situation and puts a personal, light-hearted spin on it. It’s not scary or bleak or sensational. It suggests self-care, which isn’t a bad thing in these stressful times.

Quarantime invites creativity, altruism, family fun, and attention to wellbeing.

So, dear reader, what will you do with your quarantime?

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4 responses to “Naming the Times: Quarantime”

  1. You are quite right, it does need a word. I had thought ‘retreat’ was quite helpful, many connotations with that and I have been on enough spiritual retreats that the word holds positivity and has life-changing qualities. But quarantime is growing on me. I like it. So far I have been frittering my time. I seem to have lost my ability to focus at the moment. This too shall pass. I hear echoes of the line from Mary Oliver’s, The Summer Day, ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love Mary Oliver. I know what you mean about not being able to focus. My husband keeps saying, “Earth to Ali?” I find myself procrastibaking and comfort-cooking, and the results are showing up on the bathroom scales. You’re right—this will pass. Take care my friend. X


  2. Great read thank yyou


    1. Thanks for taking time to read and comment, Shannon!


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