Since Earth Day is always good for a rant or three, I’ve been thinking of phrases I could stand to hear and see less of.
“Novel corona virus”— after thee months, any novelty has worn off. Call it Wuhan fever, which should be it’s proper name based on nomenclature standards for disease naming. And it is not new anymore.
“Unprecedented [thing]” You want unprecedented global warming? Look at North America at the end of the last glacial. Minnesota, the Dakotas, and parts of what is now Iowa went from tundra to forest to grassland in a few hundred years, possibly in some cases one hundred years. THAT is unprecedented, as best we can tell from palentological records. Just because you have never heard of a thing before, or have never looked at historical and proxy data for [thing] does not mean nothing like it has ever transpired. “Unprecedented disease outbreak?” Allow me to introduce you to the plagues of Pericles, Justinian, the Black Death, the Sweating Fever in England, small pox in the Americas (and elsewhere), Yellow Fever in the US, the 1918-20 influenza, and others I could dig up.
Impact – Enough already! I was reading a standardized test question that used “impact” three times in one sentence, rather than “influence” or “affect” or “effect” or “change” or “impress upon” or something else. Arrrrrrgh! Let us use impact for a medical difficulty, or for what happens when a hurled thesaurus hits the hands of someone who cannot be bothered to use said thesaurus. The Sweet Meteor of Doom, or volcanic ejecta from Yellowstone, will have a large impact, especially if either one hits Wyoming. A subway strike in NYC will have zero impact, unless someone gets hit with a protest sign or flying garbage can. [I might allow “policies that will impact the economy” because yes, it has cratered. Maybe.]
Hero – A person doing their job is not a hero. A person doing her duty is not a hero. The garbage man may be great, he is a vital part of society. He provides a service far too underrated in most western countries. He is not a hero. Teachers are not heroes, unless they do something so far above and beyond what is expected of a normal person that their actions are exceptional. That’s true of anyone. People can be worthy of admiration and high praise without the word “hero” being tossed around.
“Health Care Provider” for anyone who does not have anything to do with patient care. A file clerk is not a health care provider. A hospital cook is not a health care provider. A pathologist is not a health care provider, especially not if he’s a forensic pathologist or coroner! [Yes, I saw that. Yes, I applied head to desk several times. Unless you are a ghoul or vampire, you should not be getting medical care from a coroner.]
“Pristine wilderness” and “heal the planet” – OK, who defines what condition is pristine? Anyone who thinks pre-modern humans, even neolithic humans, did not change their environments to the point of having to relocate is woefully ignorant. Aside from the Arctic and Antarctic, every bit of this planet has been touched by human influence in some way, shape, or form. The planet is not sick. It is an inanimate object. We can affect the physical and biological environment such that the previous ecosystem can no longer function fully, yes. We can replace biota (and do it with gleeful abandon, as my garden will attest). The activists won’t like a colder planet, trust me. Read about the 1300s and the period of 1580-1660, and tell me how wonderful it was.
Crisis – it comes from an Indo-European root word meaning to sieve or sort, in other words, to make a distinction. The first uses in English referred specifically to the moment in the progress of a disease when the patient either started to recover or became mort. In the 1600s it took on a wider meaning of a point in any endeavor where things improved markedly or disaster ensued. In each meaning, it refers to a single point. One. An instant or moment, not seven weeks and more. Let us cease from referring to the ongoing problems surrounding Wuhan fever as a crisis.