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Wordnerdery Sue Horner’s monthly tips on words and ways to reach readers

Issue 94 - December 2020

Like a “marshmallow test” and more COVID-19 analogies

Vivid images help people quickly understand complicated topics, and here are some effective examples related to the pandemic.
Marshmallow photo by Rebecca Freeman on Unsplash.

For the past few years, my December newsletter has shared some “life is short” moments. I have more – and during these pandemic times, so do many of us – but I’m shutting the door on this dumpster fire of a year with another look at creative ways people have tried to help us understand COVID-19. Here are some examples:

“Sticking to Covid precautions over the holidays is like a national marshmallow test [measuring a child’s ability to delay eating one marshmallow for the promise of two], and we are failing it so hard.” – seen on Twitter

“My wife said, ‘why don’t we become the Tinder for PPE?’” – Sulemaan Ahmed, a consultant behind Conquer COVID-19, which collects personal protective equipment

Photo by EVGENIY KONEV on Unsplash.

“You and 9 friends are crafting. One is using glitter. How many projects have glitter?” – The spread of COVID-19 explained in craft terms, as seen on Twitter

“Both vaccines use messenger RNA, or mRNA, to carry instructions for making the coronavirus’ spike protein to human cells. Human cells read those instructions and produce the viral protein, priming the immune system to ward off the virus should it be encountered later.” – Tina Hesman Saey in Science News

A 9/11 each day.” – Twitter response to a message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that ”We’re in that range potentially now of starting to see 1,500 to 2,000 to 2,500 deaths A DAY from this virus.”

“I’ve used that metaphor that the cavalry is on the way. If you’re fighting a battle and the cavalry’s on the way, you don’t stop shooting. You keep going until the cavalry gets here, then you might even want to continue fighting.” – Dr. Anthony Fauci in The Guardian

"We are in for this long, protracted game of whack-a-mole with the virus where different places will stamp it out at different times. It will surge back. It will need to be controlled again." – science writer Ed Yong in Health News from NPR

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash.

“In recent months, wearing a mask has wrongfully become a question of politics. Dr. Céline Gounder, member of the Biden Transition COVID Advisory Board, says, ‘It’s like politicizing toilet paper. A mask is a basic hygienic measure. This is not a political statement.’” – seen on Twitter

“We took an elevator down, Porter likes to say about the pandemic economy, and we will have to take a very long set of stairs back up.” – Heather Scoffield in the Toronto Star

How about you – have you seen any particularly apt analogies explaining COVID-19? Please share.

And here’s to needing fewer explanations of complicated material as we turn the corner on this pandemic in 2021. In the meantime, stay safe, and thanks for being part of the Wordnerdery family in 2020.

Related reading:

Life is short; Shortbread and other traditions (Dec. 2019 Wordnerdery)

Life is short; Lessons from my dog (Dec. 2018 Wordnerdery)

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