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Grammar Guy: A glossary of social isolation terms

We have so many new phrases that didn’t exist in our common parlance a month ago, and now they’re part of every press conference, news alert and headline. Well, buckle up, buttercup; today we’re going to discuss a few terms related to staying put.

I hope you are sheltering in place and staying healthy. I’m still not used to “shelter” as a verb, but I’m here for it. I’m here at home, parking my backside on my couch for the sake of my neighbors’ collective health. The point is, we need to stay home right now to help “flatten the curve.” I have a feeling my own curves will not get flattened as a result of my sheltering in place.

We have so many new phrases that didn’t exist in our common parlance a month ago, and now they’re part of every press conference, news alert and headline. Well, buckle up, buttercup; today we’re going to discuss a few terms related to staying put.

Are you “hunkered down” or are you “bunkered down”? Are both of these terms right, or just one of them? I appreciate the fact that I have a captive audience right now, and I hope you continue to support and subscribe to your local newspaper. If you’re looking to stay in one place for an extended period of time to wait for something to end, you’re “hunkering down.” It doesn’t seem like anyone just “hunkers”; we always hunker down. We also don’t hunker up — only down.

What about “bunker down”? I’m familiar with the term “bunker” only because that’s where my golf balls tend to land. A bunker is a place where you lie low or buckle down; it makes sense that you hunker down in a bunker. I can see why someone would make the leap from “hunker down” to “bunker down,” but “bunker down” is a great example of an eggcorn; only use it if you are okay with using the wrong term.

Are you feeling “holed up”? That makes sense because you’ve been hiding out in your home. Do you have “cabin fever”? That’s better than an actual fever (I sincerely hope you don’t have an actual fever). Having cabin fever means you’re easily irritated or feeling restless from being holed up and hunkered down for a long time.

I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me on this note: I have a hankering for all this hunkering to be over. Read a book, do some yoga, check on your neighbors (from the sidewalk), or search for just the right Zoom background for your next meeting. I have a feeling we’re going to be hunkering down for a while.

By Curtis Honeycutt, an award-winning syndicated humor columnist, first published on https://www.circlevilleherald.com/ on April 7, 2020