SocietyMarch 13, 2021

From assiduous to zero: The Dictionary of Dr Ashley Bloomfield


A year ago yesterday, the World Health Organisation formally declared the Covid-19 crisis a pandemic, and we were all becoming accustomed to using the word ‘epidemiological’ in everyday conversation. New Zealanders’ vocabularies have grown since, in large part thanks to one man.

When Ashley Bloomfield used the word “assiduous” multiple times in a Covid-19 press conference last month, he unexpectedly sent the country into a spin. It’s a lovely word, but nobody seemed to know what it meant. Google Trends reported a sudden spike in New Zealand searches for the term, which then caused understated Facebook page Fans of Sir Dr Ashley Bloomfield to declare the director general of health “New Zealand’s smartest person”.

Hard to know if that’s true, because I’ve never forgotten those dogs who drove cars on Campbell Live, but it does feel like a year of Covid-19 updates has turned us into a nation of armchair epidemiologists. For more than 12 months now, we’ve soaked up all the sciencey words the director general of health has chucked at us, and now we’re casually throwing around phrases like “critical serology testing” and “absolutely rigid infection control” like we were born holding a bunsen burner. 


Bloomfield’s press conferences are often filled with big words, brainy words, words that get repeated over and over again. But day by day and phrase by phrase, his extensive vocabulary is making us smarter. Last autumn Bloomy was in our earlobes, by summer he was in our brains. Who knows where he’ll be by winter, so until then, let’s wrap our tongues around some of the entries from the Dictionary of Ashley Bloomfield.


Put it on your Tinder profile, tattoo it across your heart: hello, I’m Assiduous. It’s the word of 2021, the phrase that had us opening up both our brains and our dictionaries during January’s community case scare. Officially assiduous means “to show great care and perseverance”, but now it also means “Ashley Bloomfield’s heart has swelled with pride over your impressive commitment to the Covid-19 Tracer app”. 

Bluetooth (turned on)

Lucky bluetooth.


Caution – abundance of

It’s the phrase that’s seen us through level changes, contact tracing and testing criteria, and now it’s filtering into our everyday lives. Last week I couldn’t decide if an avocado was ripe enough, so I applied an Ashley Bloomfield abundance of caution to the situation and waited until the following day to cut into it. Level one tension, level one result. 


The fancy word Bloomfield used in August 2020 to describe the absolute shitshow of a communication breakdown between the Ministry of Health, who failed to test border workers, and the government, who believed testing was taking place. See also: Bus, thrown under, and David Clark.


We couldn’t say it this time last year, now it rolls right off the tongue. Say it five times quickly. Easy.

Fomite transmission

I might, you might, we all might for fomites. One of Bloomfield’s faves during the August lockdown, relating to the possible transfer of Covid-19 via a contaminated surface. 


Genome sequence

Chuck on a lab coat and scatter bicarbonate of soda to the four winds, because we’re all genome experts these days. This genetic testing shows the path of the virus, and is key to whether we should start to freak out or not. Unrelated to garden gnomes, unless they’re symptomatic or have recently travelled from overseas. 


Probably the closest Bloomy has come to swearing, ever. Used sparingly for extra impact, “gosh” described the surprise Bloomfield imagined the public felt when the Covid-19 Tracer App reminded us what we were doing 13 days ago. 

Helpful (extremely, incredibly)

Some of us would say ffs scan in, Ashley says it would be extremely helpful

Initial referencing of the cycle threshold values

My cycle threshold is going up a single tiny hill in first gear, but Ashley likes to keep it scientific. He unleashed this pearler last September when discussing a weak positive case that was historic and uninfectious. The cycle threshold value relates to the concentration of genetic material in a sample. I hate bikes.

As of this week, we must also add Incorrect. That’s how Dr B described his original description of attending a cricket match as a guest of NZ Cricket as “in his private capacity”.

Just a reminder

Wash, sanitise hands, scan, Bluetooth on.

Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield check in with the hand sanitiser on their way into a briefing (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Kia ora koutou katoa

If we updated this to be comprehensive it would take you a month to watch.   


Everything we didn’t know in February 2020. 


No man is an island, and no man has said “motu” on live TV at 1pm every day more than Ashley Bloomfield.


Go on, say it. You can do it. Your nasal cavity salutes you. 

Oh gosh

What I imagine Ashley Bloomfield said out loud when he discovered someone tattooed his face on their leg.



Bloomfield made an unexpected departure from his usual lyricism in April 2020 with this press conference banger: 

And finally

just a sort of more prosaic matter

I’ve extended the existing section 70 notices

before they expire

at midnight 


Quarantine facilities

A home away from home, and a favourite topic of discussion during the 1pm press conferences.


“Covid-19 can feel like a rollercoaster you didn’t buy a ticket for,” Bloomfield said last week. What a truth bomb. I always knew he loved Ronan Keating


Like assiduous, only snazzier.  

That’s all I have, prime minister

That’s all you have? ALL YOU HAVE? Stop that right now, director general. Never undervalue yourself, Ashley Bloomfield. Live, love, laugh, you are enough. 

Tricky virus

This winning phrase is often used by Bloomfield and the prime minister, as if they’re standing in front of a naughty wee globule of Covid-19 and pinching its cheek and ruffling its hair and saying OH, YOU. It’s a handy term that covers a multitude of sins, from “we weren’t quite as prepared as we thought” to “WTAF is happening”. 

Seriously, don’t (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Unknown source


Virus is the problem (the)

People are the solution, life is a roller coaster, just gotta ride it.

What I can say is …

What you hear when the doctor is not going to answer your question. 

Xacerbation of an xisting illness
Xcuse me, xeptional times call for xtraordinary spelling. Save your questions for the 1pm press conference. 

Your usual business

What Bloomfield does not want you to “go about” if you have symptoms. No show business, no funny business, and definitely no getting down to business. Also, if you have a head for business and a body for sin, then please cover your entire lustful carcass with nasal swabs and hope for the best. 

Zero cases

The best words Bloomy’s ever uttered. 

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