Credit: Guy Venables

    Word of the week: Firebreak

    23 October 2020


    A strip of cleared land designed to check the spread of a prairie or forest fire/ the name given to the new Welsh lockdown.

    Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, has ordered Wales into a ‘firebreak’ lockdown to “slow down the virus and buy us more time”. It is anticipated that the First Minister will use all 17 days of the lockdown to think carefully about what to do when it ends, and the virus is still with us. It is widely feared that Mr. Drakeford will simply impose another lockdown. He may use an entirely new word to describe it, or develop his original concept into a franchise. We can look forward to: ‘What’s occurring? Nothing!’, ‘jobstopper’ and Nadolig heb y teulu (Christmas Without The Family).

    The Welsh government doesn’t like to promote their scientific advisors at press conferences and many people have become sceptical of the ‘case’ numbers and predictive graphs used to justify further restrictions. The First minister seriously considered bringing in the Gavin and Stacey character, Nessa, to make a direct appeal. This may have been more effective: “I’m only sayin’, the Welsh health service is the best health service in the whole of Wales.”

    Unfortunately Nessa was unavailable due to a previous commitment involving a litre bottle of vodka, a dash of blackcurrant and a nasty rash.

    It is rumoured that Mr. Drakeford has been struggling for weeks to find a word that could differentiate him from Nicola Sturgeon, Boris Johnson and other world leaders vying to impose different varieties of lockdown. Unlike Burnham, he already has the money, so all he needed was a new word. The great Welsh literary and poetry canon provided no inspiration. Finally, it was a mixture of Welsh mythology and a word association game, that he enjoyed as a child, that provided the answer: Fear .. big red dragon .. fire-breathing .. burning .. prairie .. fire break! Although Wales is not famous, either for its bush fires or its prairies, it is well known for its dragon and the name stuck.