Alphabet of our times. What's your Covid Alphabet? By Roy Lilley

Alphabet. By Roy Lilley


Having a daily conversation is simple enough, there is always something to talk about.

Covid, Brexit, Trump, BoJo, leadership, planning, strategy, management, heroics, stupidity, stuff that makes us laugh, cry or furious. There is no shortage of topics and there is a lot of fertile ground to cover. 

Over the years I have written hundreds of articles, thousands of paragraphs and goodness knows how many words... 

... and words are the single most powerful force in mankind’s toolkit for life. They can be constructive, obstructive, destructive. Words of despair and repair. Words will humiliate, humble or bestow heroism. Words can heal or hurt, help or hinder. They bring joy, can be clumsy, insightful or capture a feeling or moment in time.

The words we use create a lexicon of our time, some bestow a whole new meaning and context. Here is my alphabet of our times. Twenty six words that have dominated, described and encapsulated life since last March; 

  1. America; a nation in decay.
  2. Broadband; make it a public utility.
  3. Compassion; there is a lot of it about.
  4. Decisions; make them early, be prepared to change them or pay a price.
  5. Eduction; a public service in turmoil. 
  6. Fake-news; it’s not funny anymore and the pedlars… lock ‘em up. 
  7. Generosity; giving with money is easy, giving your time to people is priceless.
  8. Home schooling; just remember an algebraic equation is univariate.
  9. If-only; is a bad place to be… don’t put yourself there.
  10. Joy; bring some to work.
  11. Kindness; matters and no act, however small, is wasted. 
  12. Laughter; the closest social distance between two people.
  13. Ministers; they are like the rest of us, some are very poor at their job and need to learn there is a difference between standing by a Party and standing by a country. The best discover their servant’s-heart.
  14. NHS; we must never stop reminding ourselves how much better it is, as a system, than anything anyone else has.
  15. Obscurantism; what the DH press-office does.
  16. Plan; three steps…we get out of this provided there is no major new virus variant, vaccine roll out goes well, deaths come down and the pressure on the NHS goes away.
  17. Queen; she’s had her jab, make sure you get yours.
  18. Rules; hands, face, space… it’s all that matters.
  19. Social distancing; totally alien.
  20. Thursday; banging a saucepan, with a spoon…
  21. Undergraduates; thousands of working people get degrees, at a distance, with the Open University, so can you.
  22. Vaccines; be realistic, they won’t start to impact us for another 3-4 months.
  23. Whitty; Chris, professor, air cover for BoJo… 
  24. Xmas; the celebrations have cost lives, 1,000 a day at the moment. The last time we hit this number, we were and we are still, 22 days away from the peak.
  25. You; look after you, don’t let Covid put your life on-hold. Have a plan, otherwise you’ll fall into someone else’s plan and then you’re left to guess what they’ve planned for you.
  26. Zoom; get the camera at eye-line, put the light source behind the laptop and check there is nothing embarrassing in the background.

These are the twenty-six that came first, to mind. I could have chosen…

Amazon, Box-sets, Care-homes, Deliveries, Epidemiology, Family, Graphs, Helplines, Isolating, Just-in-time-delivery, Kids, Lock-down, Masks, Number-Ten, Online, Pfizer, Queuing-2mtrs-apart, Ringing 111, Sheltering, Track-n-trace, Unknown, Votes, Waiting, X+Why=Education, Yanji, astra-Zeneca.

They’re my starters… now it’s your turn. 

What is your Covid Alphabet?



Roy Lilley is a health policy analyst, writer, broadcaster and commentator on the National Health Service and social issues.