Washington Hilton before Neon Trees concert
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

12 Overused Terms of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Era

As cities, states, countries, and territories around the world begin the process of reopening the economy in stages — and eventually open borders which have been closed — the media is awash with advertising which is designed to comfort its audiences and target markets with nomenclature that we are all in the same situation…

12 Overused Terms of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Era

A shopping mall remains closed amidst the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

…but in the era of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — in which millions of people have either isolated themselves or are under mandatory quarantine — feathers are apt to eventually get ruffled and the wrong raccoon may become rankled.

In other words, people in general have become more easily irritated and ruder to others by the restriction of freedom, the fear of the unknown pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, and the onslaught of “cabin fever” — all of which is understandable — especially given that the weather has been moderating over much of the planet at this time of year.

Here are 12 terms which I would be just fine if I never read or heard them again for the rest of my life:

1. Social Distancing.

Gate area Bahrain International Airport
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Social distancing is an oxymoronic term which is generally a defined a set of actions in controlling an infection without the use of pharmaceutical drugs, with the intention to mitigate or eliminate the spread of a contagious disease — and therefore minimize the transmission of a virus, bacteria, or germ from a possibly infected host to other people by reducing the probability of contact between them.

Examples of social distancing include maintaining a distance of six feet between people — which typically requires the cancellation or postponement of events, a temporary stoppage of mass transportation, and other mass gatherings of people — as well as isolation and quarantine.

I have been wondering what happened to the people who usually publicly accuse others of being obsessively compulsive about handling germs. Are they suddenly practicing social distancing?

My skin feels like it crawls whenever I hear or read the term social distancing.

Regardless, distancing — as I personally would rather call it — is something which I support and have practiced long before the current pandemic existed. As I wrote in this article pertaining to 5 Reasons Why I Have Not Changed Anything Despite 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic, “Unless I am in a gregarious mood — which is not typical for me — I arguably pretty much invented the practice of avoiding other people whenever possible; so the recommendation of distancing myself at least six feet from other people requires no change on my part.”

2. Book With Confidence.

Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

First used by airlines and lodging companies prior to when the 2019 Novel Coronavirus was labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the term book with confidence is marketing blather meant to assure a potential customer that if a purchase is completed, the customer can freely cancel a reservation without penalty by having to pay arguably usurious fees…

…and yet, countless examples abound of airlines and lodging companies reportedly canceling the itineraries of their customers while simultaneously illegally keeping their cash of their customers and offering vouchers instead of refunds.

Book with confidence is only one of a plethora of terms used by companies which are using the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic as a marketing opportunity — especially when the chief executive officer of a company sends a message to you about how he or she cares about you and your well being; and that you are of the utmost importance to him or her.

Yeah. Right.

3. In These Uncertain Times…

Question Marks
Graphic illustration ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

With variations such as unprecedented times or uncharted waters or challenging times, the only reason why the times we live in are uncertain should have been because of the nature of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — but a continuous onslaught of amateurishly thoughtless decisions worldwide have exacerbated a bad situation to beyond the point of abysmal.

In other words, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — in and of itself — is not what created these uncertain times. Politics, greed, selfishness, and other flaws of humanity — which have been exacerbated by obfuscation, fear mongering, and confusion — are what ultimately created the current environment of these uncertain times

…and companies have been using this term to take advantage of advertising that — regardless of what happens during these uncertain times — you can count on them to be a familiar oasis in a desert of what is otherwise the absence of the usual to which we have been accustomed; and hopefully, that will be enough for you to feel comfortable in patronizing their businesses.

4. An Abundance of Caution.

Closed to Public
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Customers are being advised that the companies which purportedly serve them and their best interests are taking an abundance of caution for their best interests; and politicians have employed a similar tact for their constituents.

What does an abundance of caution even mean? Does it mean being more cautious than necessary? Does it mean being more cautious than prudent — even if it means other things are to be adversely sacrificed?

“To consider this morass of developments is to appreciate what the phrase ‘abundance of caution’ accomplishes”, according to this article written b “It has an air of rhetorical largesse; it implies politeness and restraint instead of flailing panic. It’s a verbal lasso around galloping unpredictability. Though the scale of its terms are oxymoronic — abundance signaling plenty, caution calling for restraint — that only serves to make it sound more poetic. Imagine a kind neighbor coming over to your house and sharing their caution with you, because they had an abundance this year. An unlimited buffet with a caution fountain, caution towers, baskets of caution. As though we’re all positively relishing in our carefulness rather than preparing for the worst. There is something particularly American about turning something stark into a cornucopia.”

Companies and politicians might do well to lessen the use of the now-ubiquitous doublespeak known as an abundance of caution

…you know…out of an abundance of caution towards its overuse.

5. Flatten the Curve.

Flatten the curve is a term used for the illustration — by using a simple graph or chart — of the ratio of reducing the number of cases of a disease to the point where the capacity of hospitals and other medical infrastructure is not overwhelmed.

The term flatten the curve may be somewhat new to the public vernacular, but not the idea behind it. Consider the diagram on page 18 of this report titled Interim Pre-pandemic Planning Guidance: Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the United States — Early, Targeted, Layered Use of Nonpharmaceutical Interventions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was first published in February of 2007.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The result of goals achieved by mitigation of a pandemic by the world community, if the peak of an outbreak is delayed, the burden on hospitals and other medical infrastructure is eased, which therefore diminishes overall cases and the impacts on health.

Still, flatten the curve has become overused jargon to the point where some people might not have taken its intended purpose seriously — a backfiring of sorts — and somewhat defeat its intended purpose…

…but fortunately, many hospitals and other medical infrastructure never did reach the nightmare scenario which was predicted during a pandemic which is out of control; and numerous reports suggest that some of them have had so few cases — while simultaneously postponing elective medical procedures in preparation for an onslaught which never materialized — that a reduction of staff and services were unfortunately more realistic.

6. Essential Worker.

Gunshow meal restaurant
Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

What exactly is an essential worker? That depends on who you ask and in which jurisdiction the term is defined…

…but if you use the definition of the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security of the United States, essential critical infrastructure workers include those people who work in the following industries:

  • Chemical
  • Commercial Facilities
  • Communications
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Dams
  • Defense Industrial Base
  • Emergency Services
  • Energy
  • Financial
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Government Facilities
  • Healthcare and Public Health
  • Information Technology
  • Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste
  • Transportation Systems
  • Water


Source: Department of Homeland Security of the United States.

The people who work in the aforementioned industries may be the recipients of $200 billion in what is referred to as hazard pay if the second round of stimulus money from the federal government of the United States — which is called the Heroes Act is as much as three trillion dollars in aid — and passes all of its hurdles.

So who are not considered essential workers? Actors? Hairstylists? Artists?

7. First Responder and Healthcare Hero.

healthcare workers sign
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Speaking of essential workers, are doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals — and for that matter, employees working in restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail businesses — really considered “heroes”?

The official definition of a hero — according to the Oxford Dictionary — is “a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

Has the word hero become overused?

When I asked in this article the question as to whether you would give up your premium class seat aboard an airplane to a first line responder which I wrote on Friday, May 8, 2020, every reader of The Gate who responded in the Comments section at the time this article was written responded with the words “no”, “nope”, and “never”.

I asked people in person the same question; and they responded with the same answers of “Why should I consider them heroes solely based on their choice of career? They are workers who are doing their jobs.”

Despite my negative opinion of the health care system in the United States in general — which I believe needs to be overhauled — I will be the first to admit that exceptional individuals have performed above and beyond the call of duty during the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic; and they should be commended for their service…

…but does that automatically mean that all of them are heroes?

Prior to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic, I have had a dim view of the current state of the health care system within the United States. In this article as to why health care cannot be more like travel, I wrote that I blamed four factors mostly dealing with the financial aspect — without delving into politics — which I believe is the impetus for the problems with which the medical profession is fraught:

  • Expensive drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, which claim that they need to recover their research and development costs
  • Tuition costs at medical institutions which are skyrocketing out of control despite the state of the economy
  • Health insurance companies which cite increasing treatment costs for their subscribers
  • Medical personnel who are squeezed by the increasing limitations and restrictions imposed on them

8. Rapidly Changing Updates.

Restaurant closed
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Also referred to even though a lot has changed and rapidly-changing environment, I am sure that none of us need to be reminded of the fact that things have indeed changed…

…but I suspect that the use of rapidly changing updates — or similar terminology — is a similar disclaimer to that of “just sayin’” in the northeastern United States or “bless your heart” in the southeastern United States. For example: “He is a moron. Just sayin’!” or “She is dumber than a stump, bless her heart.”

In other words, companies and other entities can do whatever they want because everything is changing so rapidly that they too can change at a moment’s notice — usually to your detriment.

Just sayin’…

9. The New Normal.

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

“You forgot ‘the new normal’. I don’t want a ‘new normal’. I want a normal normal.”

That is what Franci — who is a reader of The Gateposted in the Comments section of this article which originally outlined only four overused terms of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus era; and I have heard similar sentiments from other people.

The New Normal seems to be a term which an increasing number of people despise the most, as it implies the continuation of parts of the dystopian society — through which we have been forced to adapt and live — well into the foreseeable future due to the substantial changes which have resulted from the reaction to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Just remember how the aftermath of the events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 became our “new normal” pertaining to travel with which we still remove our shoes when passing through a security checkpoint at an airport or carrying only a limited amount of liquids aboard an airplane as only two of many examples.

I can only imagine what additional inconveniences “in the name of safety” we may have to encounter as our “new normal” after the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic subsides…

10. We Are All In This Together.

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

I wanted to believe this. Really. I truly wanted to believe that we are all in this together.

When the attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 occurred, I remember saying that if this historic event does not compel the world to unite towards a better future and to achieve goals which are important to the improvement of society in general, then we will have failed on an opportunity to ensure that the world is a better place for as many people as possible…

…and that failed colossally, in my opinion. Rudeness and incivility abound every day around the world. Politics are as prevalent as ever and seem to inhibit rather than achieve important goals — even today in the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic era. Passengers of airplanes still must carry little bags of liquids, take shoes off at airport security checkpoints, and endure other seemingly inane procedures which supposedly connote the importance of safety — but arguably are little more than what some people call security theater — and I still stand by my controversial and unpopular opinions pertaining to my aversion to trusted traveler programs which were initiated by the federal government of the United States after 2001, which I believe is an erosion of some civil liberties and freedoms while the federal government simultaneously profits.

An example that we are not all in this together is a controversy which recently surfaced in relation to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic: the allegation that Richard Burr — who is a Republican senator representing the state of North Carolina and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee of the United States — reportedly “warned a small group of well-connected constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects of the coronavirus”, according to this article written by Tim Mak for National Public Radio, which is more popularly known as NPR; and yet Burr purportedly used that information to commit insider trading by selling $1.6 million in stock prior to the substantial decline in the value of the stock market.

Did Richard Burr profit on the information about which he knew without immediately alerting the public of what was forthcoming? I will leave that to Burr and the media to sort out the answer.

Burr denied the allegations — but he is currently under investigation for selling stock prior to the economic downturn which was caused by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic; the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized a mobile telephone which belongs to Burr from his home; and Burr has stepped aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee until this investigation is resolved.

Myriad other examples abound about how we are not all in this together — too many to cite in one article — but the sentiment of we are all in this together is nice; and I truly hope it prevails.

11. We Will Get Through This Together.

Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

You might have seen them on lawns outside of houses, graffiti on walls, and displayed at the buildings of companies and businesses: signs adorned with messages which are designed to inspire hope and promise for the future…

…but once we do get through this together, then what? Do people revert back to every person for himself or herself?

12. We Are Here For You.

dark empty mall stores
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Most companies which advertise that they are here for you do not explain exactly how they are here for you. Is it because you can use their official mobile application software program on your portable electronic device to contract their services without ever having to touch anyone or anything and not have to leave your home?


empty shelves
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Despite my doubts, I nevertheless truly hope that when the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic subsides — and it will eventually subside in some form — that we will have learned some valuable lessons to guide us as a society forward into the future…

…but in the meantime, I would like to know what mainstream terminology you believe is overused — and, perhaps, annoying — in the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic era.

This article is the latest in a series pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — which is also known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV or SARS-CoV-2 or HCoV-19 or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 — pandemic in an effort to get the facts out with information derived from reliable sources…

…as well as attempt to maintain a reasoned and sensible ongoing discussion towards how to resolve this pandemic.

Other articles at The Gate which pertain to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus include:

All photographs ©2007, ©2015, ©2018, ©2019, and ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I pity the person who actually has to listen to what you have to say in real life. Will it take you to actually catch Coronavirus so you can finally get some perspective? Don’t forget to tell the doctors who saves your life that they’re not heroes. I’m sure that’ll make them feel better.

    1. As unlikely as it is that Brian, or any one of us, will catch this virus – with 0.45% confirmed infection rate in the U.S., but should that happen…

      I assume one would feel extreme gratitude that his medical team used their training to successfully treat him….
      I assume one would be inclined to authentically thank each of his caregivers…
      I assume one would speak fondly of the attention given to him while undergoing care…
      I assume one would promptly pay all bills associated with said care, to the best of his ability.

      But I would still not consider these highly trained and well-intentioned healthcare workers to be heroes. These professionals willingly took on the burden of years of grueling and often expensive education in order to fulfill their interest or desire or dream to work in this field. And thank goodness many do as it is certainly not my cup of tea. But, ultimately, they have simply done their job and done it well. *Honorable*… but not heroic.

        1. My take? No, *everyone* in the military is not necessarily a hero.

          I recognize that the military face danger as a matter of their daily responsibilities. However, in modern times, military members chose this career path knowing the extreme risks and circumstances. It is not a job for everyone but those who do it, choose it. That said, there are certainly heroic acts in the military. Service members who join during a draft situation and serve honorably are heroes in my eyes. Additionally, those who go above and beyond can definitely receive hero status to me.

          I am incredibly grateful for those who serve in our military. But I do not personally consider them to be heroes simply because of their job choice.

      1. Exactly. Doctors and nurses are very well compensated for the work they do. Nurses earn 80k-140K (with overtime and seniority) and Doctors earn 175K-700K depending on the specialty. They are well compensated for the education requirements they are forced by the government to obtain and are well compensated for the risks. A delivery driver delivering food to an elderly person who can’t cook or go out is also not a hero. He or she is a delivery driver who does good work but is not being heroic when he or she does this 260 days a year or more as part of a normal job.

        Cops are also not heroes. Cops blindly enforce orders for very good compensation (taxpayer money taken involuntarily from citizens, actually by threat of force from cops themselves) including great medical benefits and pensions for a certain amount of service. Cops enforce decrees of politicians which often violate fundamental freedoms and bring a lot of harm on people who voluntarily and consensually make choices for their own bodies and property like not wearing a seat belt, doing drugs, visiting friends or family on private property during coronavirus or engaging in speech which is illegal in Europe.

        Soldiers likewise blindly follow orders and instead of securing actual borders in their home country, get involved in foreign affairs in countries 6000 miles away that have nothing to do with keeping the U.S. safe. Someone who signs up for military service is fairly compensated, receives benefits, can get a pension if he or she makes a career out of the service, and often receives a substantial signing bonus or re-signing bonus. Being a hero is about doing what you aren’t paid for and going above and beyond your scope of expected service during a risky situation.

  2. On a lighter note… my additional vote for annoying phrase of the month is – – – Contactless Delivery.

    As though the cardboard box that holds my pizza is now so very contaminated that neither my delivery person nor I can actually touch it – and certainly not on opposite sides of the same box at the same time! The delivery person will text me that they are approaching my front door then proceed to deposit our pizza boxes on a bush beside the door before leaping back several feet just in time for me to open the door. We awkwardly yell greetings across the front walk as I am instructed to use a disposable implement to retrieve my packaged food from the landscaping.

    Seriously?! How have humans survived this long if our immune systems are this delicate?

  3. Every time I hear someone refer to “The New Normal” I want to jump off a bridge! There is nothing normal about any of this and using that term gives no hope for the future. I really wish people would start calling it “Precautionary Anti-Pandemic Measures” or something like.

    And I am so sick of the sugar-coating of all the restrictions I see on the Aussie news. It’s like they are trying to brainwash us into thinking the rest of our lives will be like that. Like conditioning us into a dystopian lifestyle.

    Everyone knows what the risks are by now. I wish govts would back off controlling our lives and let us determine what risks we want to accept. And if we have vulnerable people in our families they should also decide for themselves if they want to accept risks and go out and interact with people or stay home and use home delivery.

  4. I agree with the spirit of your article. There are some things that should always have been normal that I hope will stay so. Specifically for me these are
    – Proper cleaning and hygiene practices in place that are used by the public
    – Optional shaking of hands especially between people of the opposite sex
    – Remote working when possible, leading to less traffic. That having been said, there are some types of work that work better in a face to face environment
    – Checking up on others that you don’t see very often
    – Not traveling or spending money for the sake of amassing status and points
    – Distinguishing, when money is tight, between what is necessary and what is luxury

  5. I totally agree with this article ….

    Please add “Scrambling” ….another over-used, worn-out word…… “scrambling” to get kids taken care of, “scrambling” to find a babysitter, “scrambling” to look for work, “scrambling” to buy toilet paper and sanitizer”, “scrambling” to figure out a way to pay their rent. All this does is make the panic button the size of Mount Rushmore. And totally stop calling every nurse, doctor and every other hospital employee (administrative staff, janitors, etc) as heroes. Disclaimer – I am not minimizing the terrific work they do, hands on care but it is the profession they chose. The last pandemic was 100 years ago and not one of them would have ever expected this untold event to occur with hundreds of thousands of victims and unexpected issues of understaffing, PPE supplies etc.
    Every fireman and police officer that ever worked in NYC during and since 911 is automatically labeled a hero and I’m sorry (even as a New Yorker), I definitely don’t feel ALL of them or most of them are heroes. Some are downright power-tripping, jack-booted bullies. I’d be embarrassed to run or walk a gauntlet while a crowd of people applaud me for a job I chose to do long before this pandemic.

  6. There are also misconceptions that are overstated. They may be true for some, but not for me. Here are some:

    Myth: Our children are at home so they have more time.
    Reality: Our children, thanks to their wonderful schools, have remote schooling almost all day long, in fact they seem to be doing more schooling now than they did before!
    Fact: Having them all at home all the time does give an opportunity for bonding, especially during breaks and at lunch time. With six children aged between 17 and 7 sitting very close to each other, you can imagine that there may be the occasional bickering, and the occasional IT glitch. Thankfully as an IT specialist I can fix them all except for bad Zoom connections that I cannot control! They also usually get along remarkably well with each other and thankfully do the work they are assigned without being nagged.

    Myth: Because we are at home we have more time.
    Reality: Whether you are teleworking or, as in my case, “researching my next opportunity”, the time spent working or looking for work is the same as before, especially when you often have to stop to act as arbitrator or technical support.

    Myth: When you pray at home, for those that pray regularly on a daily basis, you can do it with more concentration and devotion.
    Reality: This is one of the things that is the hardest. For me, having to be in the place of prayer at 6:30am with others is a huge motivator to start the day nice and early, and to keep focused, even when I have been looking for work. Others may be able to do this at home with more devotion but this is definitely a work in progress for me, I will probably master it just as we are allowed to gather again for daily prayers, may it be very soon!

    Having said all this, you will notice that getting sick has not been mentioned once. As much as I would like to be getting out with the family or on my own, it is nice to have been cold-free for several weeks as a result of being forced to stay at home. I do think it’s important our bodies don’t forget how to fight infection but I don’t miss the colds at all. For those of us fortunate enough not to have lost anyone close to us during this plague, there have been many special moments of family time. We have made a special point of not showing fear in front of our children and as a result they are very happy most of the time.

  7. How did I miss this post…?
    The #1 most over used term should be 2019 NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC! Anytime one could say Covid-19 or just the virus, Brian insists on saying 2019 NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC!
    Make it stop! PLEASE! 😉

    1. Let’s be fair, Patrick.

      How much more overused are the terms COVID-19 and coronavirus elsewhere?

      At least I am attempting to be different by using the original name for this…

      …but I do agree with you in this way: if irrational fear of the pandemic would subside somewhat, there would be little need to use any of the terms in the future…

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