July 14, 2021


 I’ve noticed that British news stories concerning COVID-19 vaccinations generally refer to such shots as “jabs.” Until very recently, I had never encountered this term’s being used by American reporters.

Merriam-Webster offers this definition of the noun “jab”:

chiefly British, informal: an injection of something (such as medicine) into one’s body with a needle

Cambridge Dictionary offers a similar definition:
UK informal: an injection

Because of the pandemic, I have heard “jab” used in this sense frequently. (I often listen to the BBC World Service at night.)

I was startled recently when a reporter at my local NPR station used “jabs” to refer to vaccinations. She now has done so more than once.

The use of “jab” for “vaccination” seems un-American. I hope this is a usage that does not catch on. Being a single-syllable word, “jab” is “efficient”—“vaccination” is four syllables—but it is actually non-specific, its exact meaning only clear from context.

Additionally, “vaccination” seems to imply a benign, medical operation. “Jab,” on the other hand, seems unpleasant and somewhat hostile—and very British.

1 comment:

  1. Today, I heard an NPR reporter use “jab” on Morning Edition. If American reporters are seeking conciseness, the word to use is “shot.” In context, it will be clear that this refers to a vaccination.


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