When I was a journalist writing about healthcare and medicine I picked up a lot of medical terminology. Last week, though, I encountered a word I’d somehow never learned: fomites.
Even if parents feel comfortable sending their kids back to school as early as July/August (and many do not), my sense is that teachers are freaking out about the idea of spending all day with our adorable fomites. #schoolsreopening— Rebecca Bird Grigsby (@danceswithkids) May 4, 2020
The Online Etymology Dictionary defines fomites as “inanimate objects that, when contaminated with or exposed to infectious agents, can retain and transfer the disease,” so technically speaking Rebecca’s usage is inaccurate. (When you’re referring to children, vectors or carriers is a better choice.) Still, I thank Rebecca for the opportunity to chase down the history and etymology of this interesting and pertinent word.