Words, words, words.
English is an utterly bizarre, yet fascinating language. As weird as it is, and as hard as it must be for a non-native speaker to master, English has tremendous facility to describe things in a multitude of ways.
Why, then, do people keep using the same few tired phrases during this pandemic? I know I am not the first person to write about this, nor the first one to express frustration about a limited use of language. I guess sometimes it just takes that one final tiny thing to push me over the edge.
I have developed a short list of words/terms that I truly never wish to hear again.
Today, I received an email – I will not divulge the source, so let’s just keep it as “anonymous.” In this email I shuddered at the first use of one of my forbidden words. Then to my horror, a second cropped up in the next sentence. Then a third. Then a fourth. Then, to throw the cherry on the cake of my frustration, that first horrific word was repeated not once but twice in the final paragraph. To quote Charlie Brown:
So, as the quarantine limps along for an indeterminate length of time and people keep writing and talking about our world situation, I want to go on record to cast my vote for the elimination of the following terms. Of course, they aren’t going away any time soon – that would be just too miraculous. But you can’t blame me for wishing.
- Unprecedented – this one is my top, #1 most hated term at the moment. I hear it every day (three times in that email from this morning). I get it. In our modern world, we have never experienced anything like this pandemic; however, if you look at history this is not our first time dealing with something like this. Look at the flu pandemic of 1918, for instance. And many other plagues throughout history. Still, if people need to keep pointing this concept out, check Thesaurus.com. There are nearly 40 synonyms for this term. I, for one, would welcome hearing any or all of them before hearing this one again.
- New normal – Yuck! This infers that we are somehow going to come to a point where all of this is permanent and will be considered “normal.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to believe that. Also, it’s a ridiculous oxymoron anyway. I welcome ideas about fresh ways to express the concept that we are going through something strange and that, for the time being, we have to accept some new rules of behavior in order to minimize our risk.
- Social distancing – I get it. Since the CDC has given its blessing to this phrase we are stuck with it and boy, I wish I could just go slap someone there for setting this one in stone as if it were part of the Biblical Ten Commandments. First of all, I don’t like the inference involved here. The phrase embeds ideas of loneliness and isolation. What we are really being asked to do is “physical distancing.” We are not supposed to distance ourselves socially. We may have to connect via digital methods, or stand at a six-foot distance, but we are only distancing ourselves in physical space, not psychic/spiritual/emotional space.
- Essential workers – let me just say that I give huge kudos to anyone working in healthcare or other areas where they have no choice but to stay in constant contact with those infected by the virus. Also, huge applause to those people still maintaining our infrastructure. My issue here is the implication that all the rest of us are chopped liver. I am most definitely not “non-essential.” Sure, being an arts presenter isn’t saving lives right now but that doesn’t mean that I and millions of people who work in those fields that are currently not deemed “essential” are somehow lesser than everyone else. Surely there are better ways of identifying those people whose jobs are more pertinent to safety and survival without creating a “greater than” vs. “lesser than” energy.
So there you have it. A little soapbox moment spurred on by another seemingly-endless day in quarantine.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.