Every year, media outlets and wordsmiths put out lists of words and phrases that people should consider removing from their vocabularies. These words and phrases are often overused by the masses. They might also seem insensitive or perpetuate negative stereotypes. In 2022, as people continue to experience severe hardship all around the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time to stop using certain related phrases.
Although these phrases are unlikely to disappear entirely any time soon, it’s important to understand the negative impact they can have on people when overused:
Anyone who lurked on social media over the last two years knows that “new normal” and “no new normal” became hot button topics. People who accepted that they couldn’t stop the pandemic from changing everything began to describe health precautions as merely part of a “new normal.” People who couldn’t accept the changes and felt that the first group were attempting to normalize abnormal events began to use “no new normal” to describe their feelings on the topic and the first group.
Yet, the reality is that life changes constantly. Even as you read this text, your body is changing and creating a new normal within you. Diseases and chaotic or hard times are norms. Every second of life creates a new state of normal, which makes this phrase redundant and a touchy subject that can incite fear and anger.
Many people become severely ill for months or even years after an initial active viral infection ends. This isn’t a new phenomenon. They continue to experience severe exhaustion, cognitive or neurological difficulties and immune system dysfunction. The phrase “post-COVID syndrome,” and the related “long COVID,” describe “post-viral syndrome.” For those people who have suffered from post-viral syndrome from other viruses, such as Epstein-Barr, measles, rubella, varicella-zoster and even the common cold and influenza, the continued use of post-COVID syndrome to describe a condition that can happen to anyone with any virus causes unnecessary harm.
For many years, those with post-viral syndrome, especially those who have the symptoms related to what has been called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, have experienced disbelief, discrimination and ridicule while seeking treatments. With the use of a separate COVID-only syndrome descriptor, the many people who have post-viral syndrome from other viruses fail to receive the same level of care and concern as those experiencing “long haul” COVID symptoms even though the adverse impact on their lives is the same.
Advisors, advertisers, business owners, medical practitioners and others love to use “friendly” to discuss various topics. When people hear the phrase environmentally friendly or eco-friendly to describe a product or service, for example, the word friendly makes them feel good about their actions. They feel like they’re helping make the world a better place and protecting themselves and others.
“COVID-friendly” usually describes an activity that someone claims is safe for an individual or group to perform so that they don’t catch COVID or experience worsen symptoms during an active infection or while struggling with post-viral syndrome. The problem with this phrase is that people often use it to describe group activities that can spread the virus or make symptoms worsen. The word “friendly” also looks out of place next to the word for a descriptor of a plague that has killed millions of people.
Avoid It Like the Plague
There was a time in recent history when people related the idea of “the plague” to the distant past when millions of people in Europe died horrifically from the bubonic plague during the Middle Ages. Since only a few rare cases of bubonic plague continued to appear in modern times with individuals, the phrase “avoid it like the plague” didn’t have negative connotations. It merely acted as an emphatic statement about how a person should use avoidance as a form of protection.
Given how difficult it has been for people to avoid the current SARS-CoV-2 plague or stop it from spreading and the high number of deaths and long-haul cases, the phrase now represents a harsh reminder of failures and suffering.
The phrase “post-pandemic” gives the impression that the COVID-19 pandemic has ended and everything can return to some ideal normal. No cure exists for the SARS-CoV-19 virus and its variants. Although vaccines reduce hospital surges and deaths, experts fear that the next variant to come from human-to-human or animal-to-human transmission might have the means to bypass antibodies that vaccines help the immune system learn to produce against the virus.
We haven’t reached an endemic state just because people are bored from or stressed out by the pandemic or politicians have decided during an election year to push an idea of normalcy at voters. No nation has found a way to prevent increases in case counts. With the removal of certain mandates at state levels, such as mask wearing and social distancing, many medical experts believe that another major surge with more loss of life is going to happen soon.
Now More Than Ever Before
When people face a severe, widescale tragedy or upheaval or many adverse events at the same time, they often use the phrase “now more than ever before,” or the related “unprecedented,” to emphasize the severity of the event or events. Even if the number of deaths or the amount of tragedy is at a high level never seen or recorded before, everyone needs to stop using the phrases because people throughout history have experienced one or more moments during which something happened at a level or to an extent never witnessed during human history. The overuse of this phrase can actually create a sense of hopelessness that further undermines the mental health of people severely stressed by the pandemic.
Most events in history aren’t truly unprecedented. The extent of these issues might be greater because of a large, diverse human population with global connections and some new outcomes occur, but plagues, conflicts and other similar major life events that cause massive upheaval have happened before.
It might be hard to let go of some of these phrases, but it’s important to try. Not only are they often overused and insensitive, but they can also perpetuate negative stereotypes about people who are already struggling. Let’s all make an effort to avoid using these phrases in 2022 and beyond. On a positive note we there are some new phrases like BDE in which you hope someone says you have that!