An Infection of Speech

Assembled Comrades, Commissars, Deputies and Commissioners, Chairmen and Co-Chairmen of the Party—

Thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, I am pleased to report that remarkable new frontiers in Newspeak expression and deployment are daily being advanced before our eyes!

In the recently-released and masterful “stigma guide“, created by the World Health Organization, we now see a firm commitment to comprehensive thought-leadership of which all can be proud.

This document, forged in the heat of possibly the most desperate and fast-moving world crisis of language in our lifetimes, all but ensures that no “negative meanings” will intrude upon the discussion of COVID-19’s effects, and puts paid to the nefarious practice of assuming the virus’s origin.

What is more, it lays out the groundwork for great patriotic “Hero Campaigns”, honoring those brave souls who, while treating the pandemic, have faced down the grave personal danger of stigma. Take joy, comrades! May the Heroes of the People prevail against all stigmatizers!

I must admit my own favorite development, however, was when the WHO chief announced in a recent speech that the chief danger is not the virus itself, but the stigma that it could create.

Such wise words! One can hardly express a greater love of humanity, nor a more perfect consummation of the idea of global solidarity.

But even having reached these heights, we are doing hardly enough in my view. Our struggle has barely begun!

To give but one example, treating “sick” people as in any way different from “healthy” ones is inherently racist and discriminatory, since it assumes and reinforces harmful hegemonic heteropatriarchal narratives of “health” and “wellness”. Not to mention the obvious and dangerous undertones of ableism involved!

This is why I feel we must, extending the wise spirit of this superb new stigma guide, denounce in the strongest terms all use of the words “sick”, “healthy”, “contagious”,  “cases”, “diagnosis”, “infect”, “transmit”, “treat”, “spread”, “improve”, “worsen”, “quarantine”, “isolation”, “cure”, “recover”, “antiviral”, “vaccine”, “medicine”, “dead”, “survive”, “doctor”, “nurse”, and “hospital”.

Listen carefully, comrades. The correct word for “sick” is “differently-well”, or transwell. The correct word for “well” is therefore, obviously, ciswell. Education, as in all things, is key!

So, if a differently-well person is shown to carry COVID-19, but nevertheless identifies as “ciswell”, I believe healthcare workers should do everything in their power to accommodate that patient’s wishes, up to and including:

1) foregoing treatment (“treatment” being, of course, just an imperialist form of other-shaming and systemic invalidation of difference designed to delegitimize otherness); and

2) immediate returning of the patient to freely mingle with the general population, without any required disclosure of their transwellness status.

Of course our hearts are with the physical victims of the virus—among whom, we fully realize, we may soon number. Yet this sentiment and this realization should never induce us to forget the real victims: those persons offended and marginalized by the shameless and recklessly stigmatizing nicknaming of this coronavirus after the geographic region in which it arose!

Together, we are fighting the gravest peril: the improper and emotionally hurtful use of language. And I have every confidence, comrades, that this is a fight we can win. Unlike our fight against the coronavirus itself—or, as it should more correctly be called, the transwellness empowerer.

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