The novel coronavirus affects many people in particularly novel ways — some more than others. In my case, it’s been akin to sharing a name with a deadly hurricane. But worse.
My name is Brianna Kovit. I’m 19 years old, and COVID-19 is really trying it’s best to kill my vibe. Before going any further, I want to take a moment to thank the virus gods for waiting until college to drag my last name through the mud. It is duly appreciated.
Just before vacating my freshman year of college in Allentown, Pen. to quarantine at home on Long Island, I started to hear talk of COVID on the news. Despite the phonetic similarity between the name of the virus and my own, I tried to convince myself that these were obviously very different words.
Whenever I said COVID, I would place emphasis on the “D” sound: “covi-DUH.” See? Different!
I wondered if anyone in my life was making the linguistic connection and correlating it back to me. Was I the subject of whispers? If this went on, would people be afraid to associate with me? Would people think I could give them the virus? Can I sue all major news outlets for slander?
For a while, I kept daily tabulations on which name would prevail in public discourse, coronavirus or COVID. I also saw “Ms. Rona” and really hoped that would take off. But, alas, no matter how tightly I cross my fingers, coronavirus has too many syllables and, just my luck, COVID flows right off the tongue. (Still hoping that Ms. Rona can catch on.)
The first time my college roommate called me “Kovit-19,” I knew it wasn’t just me. Others could hear this too. Here I was, a nice college girl minding her own business, and all of a sudden my name is inextricably linked with the first major pandemic of the 21st century. Why me?!
Why not the Smith virus? Or Jones-19? At least then, the shame could be diffused among the many, instead of spotlighted on me and my equally astonished family members.
Are we famous or infamous? Is this what they mean when they talk about your 15 minutes of fame? Can’t wait for them to be up!
Since entering quarantine, nine out of 10 of my family’s grocery deliveries have come with a variation of “KOVID,” “COVIT,” and plain, “COVID” written on the boxes. If I weren’t in the situation I am, I’d take this to be a hate crime. Imagine getting a shipment of COVID to your door!
I have had multiple encounters on the dating app, Hinge, where the guy’s opening line is to tell me that my name sounds “eerily” similar to the virus. And who says romance is dead?
When I went to vote, I spelled my last name for the clerk and she still mistakenly typed it out as “K-O-V-I-D!” Can’t you hear it? It’s a ‘T’ not a ‘D’! ‘T’ as in testing center! “T’ as in transmission rate! ‘T’ as in toilet paper!
Thankfully, I’m 19 years old and my ego can handle this mild hit. The truth is, my family name, in its original form, is “Chovet,” the Yiddish word for honor. It comes from the word “Kavod” in Hebrew, which also means honor.
When my great-grandfather arrived at Ellis Island from Poland, the immigration officer presumably could not understand the guttural “Ch” sound of Yiddish, and thus anglicized it to Kovit. For that, despite any freaky similarity to a pandemic, I’ll always carry my name as it was intended, with honor.
That being said, I am very much looking forward to Ms. Rona — it will catch on! — exiting the stage. But until that happens, I will count down the days to my 20th birthday, when I will no longer be Kovit-19.
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