tribute time

Annals of pandemic vocabulary: the N + N compound tribute time ‘a time (moment in a day) for tribute’, specialized for a specific form of tribute (largely, clapping) to a specific group of tributees (medical workers). The practice has been around for several months, but the label seems to have emerged more recently (I don’t have the resources to track these things down), and now it figures in today’s wry Doonesbury cartoon, about Zonker Harris and his nephew Zipper:


Wryly funny because it’s meta: a cartoon in which the characters recognize that they are in fact characters in a comic strip and comment on that: Zipper is clapping as tribute noise along with characters in other comic strips (mostly clapping, but also banging on things).

The practice. Three reports of the practice in the US, but without the label tribute time (though the first uses the noun tribute).

— on the American Hospital Association site, “Americans join nightly, worldwide tribute to frontline health care workers” on 3/23/20:

The first Americans Sunday joined a nightly, worldwide movement that began in Europe to show support and gratitude to the nurses, physicians and other health care workers caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants pause at 8 p.m. local time for a moment of appreciation, some even going to a balcony or window to clap for those who risk their lives to fight this battle.

— Boston Globe story: “On Friday, a round of applause for doctors, nurses, grocery workers and others on the front lines of coronavirus” on 3/29/20:

(#2) Clapping from their balconies in Boston (Globe photo)

They’ve done it in London and New York City, and now this Friday one is being organized in Boston: a collective round of applause for workers who are on the front lines of the coronavirus battle.

Everyone from Beacon Hill to the Berkshires can participate in #ClapBecauseWeCare. Here’s how: At 7 p.m. on Friday, open up a window, or stand in front of your house, and clap and whoop for five minutes as if J.D. Martinez just hit a home run in Fenway Park.

Organizers are hoping residents will cheer for the doctors, nurses, and first responders; the pharmacists and grocery workers, delivery drivers and postal employees, restaurateurs who have stayed open, and other essential personnel who are risking exposure to COVID-19 so everyone else can stay home and stay healthy.

–from the WebMD site: “Worldwide, People Clapping for Hospital Workers” on 4/3/20:

People all over the world are opening their doors and windows to cheer and clap for health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

For the past few days, countless New Yorkers have leaned out of windows, stepped onto balconies or fire escapes, and even climbed onto roofs to applaud hospital workers during the evening shift change [7 p.m. in most hospitals].

In Seattle, one nurse was brought to tears after the city’s Office of Arts and Culture asked residents to collectively cheer on health care workers every night at 8.

I note that while the explicit function of tribute time is to honor and celebrate medical workers for their grueling and risky (and often grossly underpaid) work during the pandemic, the practice also provides an occasion for social cohesion, a gathering together with others, in the time of lockdown. We are deeply social creatures, with a powerful need for community.

One Response to “tribute time”

  1. Mark Mandel Says:

    I thought of the BANG! BANG! as gunshots.

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