The year 2021 is almost over, and I think we can all agree it was not good. “Pandemic fatigue” – an expression we were already tired of 12 months ago – is still around. And with it comes a whole new slew of words and phrases we don’t want to see again as the calendar flips.
Somehow we’re all beyond using terms like “at this unprecedented time” and “in the before times.” Who even remembers the before times now? And with each new wave of the pandemic, we’re stuck reliving a Groundhog Day of familiar precedents.
Let’s circle back – another overrused term that’s still around – in December 2022 and see how we’ve done, shall we?
1. “Out of an abundance of caution”
The care and consideration behind this phrase is praiseworthy. But it usually means there will be more restrictions. I think the fact that abundance means pretty much the opposite of restrictions bugs me. But I get it.
2. “Just like March 2020”
I started hearing this a lot as the Omicron variant-fuelled fourth wave began and shows began getting cancelled and superspreader events started making the news. Yes, it is familiar, but back then we didn’t have access to vaccines and we knew a lot less about how the virus spread.
3. “Hygiene theatre”
This expression refers to the overuse of things like hand sanitizer and plexiglas shields to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While we know now that the virus is airborne and unlikely to be spread via surfaces, what I don’t like about this phrase is how dismissive it is. Especially in flu and cold season, you can catch things on surfaces. And at a time when people feel like they have no control over the situation, what’s the harm in providing a blob of sanitizer for people after they’ve touched a bunch of produce in the grocery store?
We were sick of this word last year, but as the pandemic rages on, more and more people are having to make big changes in their lives, and “pivot” still sums up that action. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.
5. “QR code”
Of course, these matrix barcodes have been around for a while, but we’ve probably used them more in the past year – for restaurant menus, theatre programs, proof that we’ve been vaccinated – than we have in all the previous years combined.
6. “Don’t have the bandwidth for…”
File this one under tired office jargon, along with phrases like “amplify voices” and “robust strategy.” At least the bandwidth metaphor is fitting, since many of us are burning through our home internet binge-watching Netflix shows and being on Zoom meetings. Which brings us to…
7. “You’re on mute”
There’s nothing like those three seconds of silence before you realize the person who’s supposed to be speaking has muted themself. Cue perfunctory laughter all round. And Zoom fatigue.
8. “Supply-chain issue”
As the pandemic affects every aspect of the global supply chain of goods (there have been many outbreaks in manufacturing plants), this phrase will likely be even more pronounced in 2022. That doesn’t mean we have to like it. Or the higher prices and longer wait times.
Despite what Joe Rogan says, unless you are an actual horse with worms, you shouldn’t be taking this to treat COVID-19.
In the entertainment world, a breakthrough is when an artist who’s been working for a while has a big, and usually earned success – i.e., breaks through to another level of fame and artistic achievement. This year, we all learned that the word had a different meaning in science – namely, that vaccinated people could have breakthrough cases, forever sullying the word.