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“Teacher, I’m very sorry. I can’t meet you for my English lesson because of Corona-san.”

At first I wasn’t sure if my student, who is in her early 70s, had made a joke. But she wasn’t jesting. She had purposely added the honorific “san” to the coronavirus, as if it were an honored person. Like “nikuya-san” for a butcher or “isha-san” for a doctor, the coronavirus has become a part of our lives, and thus, in its own way, demands respect.

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