Word of the Week! Insidious

COVID Cartoon VirusIs this an apt word for these times?  This darned virus is so…insidious. It’s a fine, formal word for something the creeps up and does terrible things.  While the OED claims that it means “full of wiles or plots” the dictionary quotes a 1900 usage for an “insidious disease.”

How can something lacking human agency (or even the stealth of an animal predator) be insidious? “Operating secretly” from the OED definition provides the key. Our current virus fits the term, because its effects vary, its symptoms may not appear at all, and its latency seems just long enough to let it spread. Moreover, COVID-19 has social beings so clearly in its sights: I’m being cynical, but our modern economy at times seems based upon restaurants, bars, beaches, and fitness centers, all great ways for the virus to spread.

Just as last week’s “peroration” gave us our modern “oration,” “insidious” breeds other terms, such as Darth Sidious from the tragically awful Star Wars prequels. I don’t recall much about the character in those poorly written films, save that he became the Emperor later. He was certainly a creeping, slowly growing menace. Thus he was clearly “insidious.” I suppose “Darth Insidious” would be too obvious, even in a rotten movie? Or redundant (here comes another pop-cult reference) such as The Evil League of Evil from the brilliant Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog? 

Time to see that one again.

While you are laying your insidious plans for Fall, send us words and metaphors! E-mail jessid-at-richmond-dot-edu with your nominees. See all of our Metaphors of the Month here and Words of the Week here.

Insidious COVID image courtesy of Pixabay.

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