Satire | We need to ban ‘pandemic language’ once this is all over

By Remy Samuels, Staff Columnist

I think many of us can agree that logging onto Zoom classes everyday and staring at the screen until our eyes burn is utterly exhausting at this point.

And equally exhausting is the new “pandemic language” that is constantly used in our daily conversations and interactions with classmates and professors. Whether it’s University-wide emails, Canvas messages from professors or every news article ever written, the same hackneyed phrases and words are flooded throughout my inbox and news feed, and I’m frankly sick of it. Obviously, it makes sense that our vocabulary has evolved given the drastic circumstances, but many of these overused terms should be abolished after the pandemic is over.

Not only are these words extremely stale at this point, but they evoke bad memories. In five years time, I do not need to be reminded of my — often uncomfortable — Zoom education with words and phrases such as “asynchronous” and “we can’t hear you, you’re muted.” Therefore, I believe we should collectively send a petition to Merriam-Webster — and honestly all the other mainstream dictionaries — to formally ban the following words and phrases post-pandemic.

Here is a list of some frustrating pandemic words/phrases I have compiled:

  • Unprecedented

I don’t know about you, but I really miss when times were precedented. I miss when things were known and certain. The funny thing is that we never said times were “precedented” when things were “normal.” In fact, despite what Merriam-Webster states, I’m not sure I believe precedented is even a real word. If I hear one more newscaster or University official say, “during these unprecedented times,” I might combust. We have truly exhausted this word for the past year, and thus, it must be removed from our vocabulary.

  • Asynchronous / synchronous

Despite being an English writing major, I honestly did not know these words existed pre-COVID times. I am almost certain I had to look these up when one of my professors told us about “asynchronous options” for our Zoom class. Remember when the only form of “synchronous” we understood was synchronized swimming? Yeah … I miss those days.

  • Cohort

I’m thoroughly convinced this word did not exist before the pandemic. It even sounds ugly. Try saying it 10 times fast — it doesn’t even feel like a word anymore. The word also feels cultish to me. One of the definitions of cohort is “one of the 10 divisions of an Ancient Roman legion” and “a group of warriors or soldiers.” I mean, I suppose in a sense we’re all warriors in this situation, fighting a common enemy, but this feels a little too dramatic. Masks and hand sanitizer just don’t feel as noble as swords and shields, in my opinion.

The term “rotating cohort,” which Pitt often uses to talk about in-person classes, just seems overly proper and it’s frankly too many syllables for me to say. I also feel the word “pod” is superior to “cohort” when describing the people who are in your quarantine bubble. Pod feels more friendly and colloquial to me, as opposed to cohort, which seems too formal and unnatural-sounding. Besides, pod is just an adorable name. I don’t think Apple would agree to banning the word pod anyway.

  • Hybrid

I’m sorry Pitt, but I don’t want to hear about our “unique hybrid model” anymore. At this point, it’s not unique at all. Literally every school is doing it. I realize this word is also used in biology and to describe a combination of two things put together, but do we really need it? I understand that hybrid cars are somewhat good for the environment, but if we all just eventually switch to electric cars, the term “hybrid” isn’t really necessary anymore, right?

  • “In these challenging times” / “During these uncertain times”

These phrases are kind of in the same vein as “unprecedented,” but regardless, we need to stop using them. We know these times are challenging and uncertain. When any email begins with either of these phrases, I’m tempted to just immediately put it in spam. Just get to the point. We are all aware that life sucks right now and do not need to be constantly reminded of it. If you’re going to send an email, just say what you need to say and leave it at that. These are “fluff” phrases, as any English professor would say. Cut these out of your vocabulary. Please, I’m begging you.

  • “You’re muted”

As I mentioned earlier, I do not need to be reminded of all the awkward and embarrassing Zoom situations I have witnessed. Almost every Zoom call has that one person who starts talking while on mute, and everyone awkwardly sits around until someone says “you’re muted,” and then they have to repeat everything they just said. As much as I would like to mute some people when they are talking in real life, we definitely do not need to say this after our Zoom classes and meetings have ended.

  • Pandemic

If you have a TikTok or a Twitter account, you probably know that there are so many other ways to mention the pandemic without actually saying the word. You can say we’re in a pangea, a panorama, a panini press, a Panic! at the Disco, a Panera Bread or a panDemi Lovato. The list goes on. These are all perfectly acceptable replacements, so there really is no need for this word to exist anymore.

  • Flex@Pitt

To this day, I really don’t understand what Flex@Pitt even is, but all I know is that I’m ready to never see or speak those words ever again. Thankfully, I will be graduating in the spring, so good riddance!

Remy Samuels writes primarily about current social issues and trends. You can write to her at [email protected].