On his third voyage to the Pacific, British explorer Captain James Cook observed in his logbook in June 1777: “When dinner came on table not one of my guests would sit down or eat a bit of any thing that was there. Every one was Tabu, a word of very comprehensive meaning but in general signifies forbidden.” This was the first of several of his entries of the Tongan word tabu (with stress on the initial syllable), meaning sacred, forbidden; or set apart for special use or purpose or for the use of a god, king, priest or chief; or prohibited to a particular class (especially women) or to persons under a perpetual or temporary prohibition from certain actions, food or contact. The word and meaning are found across the region: tabu in several languages of Melanesia and Micronesia, including some of the islands of Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea, tapu in Polynesian languages Tahitian and Maori, and kapu in Hawaiian. The Tongan form was adopted into English as taboo (and tapu in New Zealand and Maori English), with stress on the final syllable, as adjective, noun and verb, in reference to such observed customs in the Pacific, and, subsequently, in the early 19th century, other “primitive” cultures. It soon came to be used figuratively in relation to the prohibition not just of practices as dictated by religious or social custom, but more generally of the use or practice of anything. Contemporary examples include taboo topics (for instance, of menstruation, or race, or finances), and dating a colleague being considered taboo. Linguistic taboo involves the total or partial prohibition of the use of certain words, expressions or topics, especially in social intercourse – swearing is the highly emotive use of taboo terms. The language of taboo in traditional cultures continues to serve its purpose in the modern day. Black swan metaphor had a different meaning until nature intervened In March 2020, to prevent further transmission of Covid-19 among Easter Island’s Rapa Nui people, the island’s mayor banned all incoming flights – but had to manage the islanders’ concerns about the potential impact on their tourism-based economy. To do so, he relied on the discourse of tapu – foregrounding the principle of respected, sacred, shared prohibitions, defining things that are tapu as to be kept at a distance, temporarily isolated. Drawing on the traditional knowledge and language of tapu proved crucial to the island effecting quarantine and ultimately attaining zero Covid.