Analysing the Language of January 2022

February 1, 2022joelleva

Summary: This analyses the language surrounding Rapid Antigen Tests, Novak Djokovic's visa saga, and the Omicron variant, which were hot topics In Jan 2022.

Important historical context

This article was written in late January 2022, where COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) were difficult to find and expensive, which created significant political debate. Novak Djokovic was also in the news for his ultimately unsuccessful attempts to enter Australia unvaccinated, in a situation that could politely be described as one that had no winners, but several losers

As you commence the new school year (and the final one for most of you), getting off to a strong start is vital and there is no subject where this is the case more than English Language. English Language tends to get straight to work quickly, and there is a lot to get through, so you need to be on your game with a plan and a structure in place to ensure you can succeed (keeping up is easier than catching up). 

Instead, this article will look at some of the new language surrounding the Omicron variant of COVID-19, RATs and the attitudes towards them, as well as some of the language that surrounded the Novak Djokovic saga that dominated the Australian media landscape in the middle of January 2022. 

Both of these will primarily relate to discussions of informal language (Unit 3 AOS 1), although the RATs discussion will also have an extensive look at attitudes (unit 4, so stick that discussion in the bank for later). 


I will be extremely terse here. People who are not fond of Dominic Perrottet (NSW premier) and Scott Morrison (Australian Prime Minister) have used the generally informal feature of blends to link their approaches to COVID with the increase in cases, hospitalisations, and deaths. These blends have referred to the virus as, “Domicron,” or, “Scomicron,” which are used to not only to express a disdain for their handling of COVID, but also to promote a sense of in-group membership and solidarity among people who do not like these leaders, or who have been impacted by COVID (and causally attribute the impact to their response). 

These blends also have the purpose of promoting linguistic innovation to help fulfil a function of persuading readers to not vote for Scott Morrison, Dominic Perrottet, or other members of the party they represent at forthcoming elections (Federally in 2022, and the NSW state election is in 2023, although there are some by-elections in early 2022). 

RATs and Attitudes

Primarily for the linguistic economy, the acronym RATs (Rapid Antigen Tests) has developed to both help facilitate efficient communication, and to help promote linguistic innovation to adapt to modern times (Rapid Antigen Tests are new and their name is long). Whilst the development of this acronym is relatively unremarkable (it innovates to evolve the language and promotes economy), it has led to headlines such as, “couldn’t give a RATs,” (where an idiom has been adapted to include the acronym) which have been used primarily to attack the Prime Minister for his handling of the COVID pandemic, in terms of support for healthcare and other workers and general community safety, through a perceived deficiency in his acquisition of RATs for use in Australia, and his refusal to make them freely available. 

Examples of prescriptivist attitudes have also come to the fore, with many people (including me) being frustrated when people say, “RAT test,” given that the T in RAT quite literally means test. Equally, Andrew Leigh (the federal member for Fenner) have also mocked these prescriptivist attitudes and instead showed a more descriptivist one. Leigh mocked these descriptivist attitudes with a tweet stating, “If I pay for a RAT test using money from an ATM machine after typing in my PIN number, am I more at risk from linguistic purists or COVID-19,” showing a more descriptivist attitude.

Novak Djokovic

I will not explain the situation that faced Djokovic upon his arrival to Australia, because that could be a constitutional and administrative law class to explain everything that happened. However, I will quickly explain some of the language surrounding it. 

People referred to him using names such as, “Novax Djocovid,” and, “Novax Djokodick.” These have been used primarily to attack him for his attitudes towards vaccines and COVID, thus challenging his positive face needs (even though he would probably never see these), as well as to promote solidarity among people who support vaccination are frustrated that people with his views are promoted, glorified, and given visas to enter Australia (even though this last one was revoked). 

We have also seen memes serving a similar purpose, where, “out,” was used as a pun to refer to him having his visa revoked, with the pun being that a ball missing the required area on a tennis court prompts a call of, “out.” 

Anyway, I hope this article has helped you, and given you a bit of an understanding as to the language we saw over the start of 2022. 

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