Stop the madness!
Hello, and welcome to my thinly veiled rant, where I would like to discuss one of my major pet peeves: repetitive, overused language. Normally, I can handle it in small doses, such as when a friend tells the same story over and over and uses the same words every time, or when my husband tells a joke long past the point where it's funny. It's annoying, yes, but bearable.
These days, though, this phenomenon leaps out to slap you in the ears every time you turn on the television or the radio. And I'm not talking about simply hearing about the same topic. I'm talking about hearing people say literally the exact same things the exact same way over and over again, from our friends to our newscasters.
It's gotten to the point where if I have to hear one more person say "This is a journey," I might start screaming and throwing things. I even did a quick Google search to determine if my reaction is at all common, and I've used my newfound internet expertise to diagnose myself. I've landed somewhere between semantic satiation, which is where you hear words repeated to the point that they no longer hold meaning, and misophonia, which is an oversensitivity to repetitive sounds that causes you to feel triggered and anxious when you hear them. Of course, our dear writer also suffers from a case of aggravated intellectual snobbery.
I'd like to say upfront that I realize it's a luxury to be able to complain about this issue, and a rich and varied lexicon might not be the first thing on a lot of people's minds right now. On the other hand, I also don't think we should underestimate the power of language to influence how we feel. At a time when many are already emotionally fatigued by the sheer tedium of the continuing pandemic, poor communication only serves to add insult to injury.
With the whole English language at our disposal, can't we do better than hackneyed cliches looping on repeat? I believe we can, and this is my official plea to the powers that be to please, please expand your imaginations, and your vocabularies. Below are several phrases that I urge us to stop using for the foreseeable future.
1. "These challenging times"
This phrase is a euphemism that is one more product of our culture's obsession with a growth mindset. Overcoming a challenge is a good thing, right? If we think about quarantine that way, we can picture ourselves as heroes. I don't feel like a hero, though. I'm just living and trying not to be a jerk in public, which honestly shouldn't be a challenge. Plus, using any word as the blanket adjective to describe "the times" simply isn't accurate. People's situations are wildly varied depending on their job, the age and number of children they are coaching through virtual learning, and their housing arrangement. We're all feeling different things, from mild boredom to desperation.
2. "The new normal"
Every time I hear anyone use this phrase, I am reminded of another cultural obsession: normalcy. Everywhere around me, I hear people lamenting the loss of their "normal" lives and expressing the desire to get back to them as soon as possible. To which I respond, why? Don't get me wrong, many rely on programs, institutions, and services that operated more freely before. Then again, a number of our pre-pandemic practices were stressful and ineffective, but we kept doing them anyway because people generally don't like change. Maybe this should be an opportunity to inspect what parts of "normalcy" are healthy for us, and what parts we performed simply so we could stay in our lane.
3. "The 'fight' against COVID"
And any analogies involving war or battle, for that matter. I don't know why we need to assume that the only narratives we understand are related to either violence or superheroes. I think we can do better than comparing the pandemic to winning or losing a fight. Maybe instead, we can consider focusing on the concept of cooperation. Or, we could call the situation what it is: a long, drawn-out waiting game.
4. "Things might look a little different this year ..."
Oh, really? Do you think so? We're a little past the point of understated irony, don't you think? No further explanation needed.
What overused pandemic phrases are driving you crazy? Let us know in the comments!