The language belongs to the speakers. Although we believe that the dictionary or the RAE are the owners of a saved and inert treasure, every day we verify that it is an object under construction. Realize that, the huge inventory of words that the pandemic put into play and the query multiplication that the academy responded in these months.
The interest seems to be, on the one hand, linguistic correction and, on the other, the need to express in words what we are experiencing as social subjects. Since February, we have reflected in these lines neologisms as coronacrisis and fortnight, Anglicisms adopted as sanitize or severe and expressions that we had to adjust as positive in or due to coronavirus.
Thus, with the words, we accompany the painful and global path of the disease. Among the comments to the linguistic consultations on whether to say “la” covid or “el” covid, I found a few obfuscated people who considered it ridiculous to deal with language trifles when we are immersed in a reality that with thousands of deaths. It is not a matter of measuring whether the subject is more or less relevant, in any case the evident interest in how we talk about the disease shows that society took over terms that were no longer a particular discipline, in this case medicine, to be part of the common conversation.
The gender debate
The World Health Organization has the power to decide how to name a disease. On February 11, he chose the form “COVID-19” to name it.
Society took over terms that were no longer a particular discipline, in this case medicine, to become part of the common conversation.
This acronym, union of elements of different terms that has the particularity of being pronounced as a word, is made up of: “CO” for corona, “VI” for virus and “D” disease, disease in Spanish. To differentiate it from viruses, at the time of translation, the feminine, “la” covid, that is, “the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus” was chosen.
However, beyond the intention of the specialists to be precise and not to confuse the virus with the disease, when appropriating the term the speakers chose the masculine: “The” COVID-19 prevailed. The reason? Surely the fact that the genre derived from the English word “disease”It did not help to understand why we had to use the feminine. In addition, in the common language, we do not distinguish the virus and the disease, COVID-19 and coronaviruses end up working as the same.
Faced with so many queries, the RAE ended up speaking and accepted both forms as valid. In a couple of tweets he recognized the preponderance of the masculine and clarified why they had originally opted for the feminine: “The acronym ‘COVID-19 ′ that gives the disease its name is normally used in masculine (‘ the COVID-19 ‘) by Influence of the genus ‘coronavirus’ and other viral diseases (‘Zika’, ‘Ebola’), which take their name from the virus that causes them. But the use in feminine (‘the COVID-19’), as the WHO does in its pages in Spanish, is justified because it is a ‘disease’ (‘disease’ in English) the nucleus of the acronym (‘Coronavirus disease’ ). Both are considered valid. ”
In lowercase and without the number: “covid”
More important than the gender debate is that this word is already a common noun. What does it mean? Just as the dictionary registers “flu,” it will register “covid.” The term has already left the place of the acronym of scientific language to become one more word that identifies something that changed our lives.
The RAE defines this process as “lexicalization” and confirms that in the case of the common noun with lowercase and without numerical reference (el / la covid) both the masculine and feminine forms are also valid.