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Top 8 words, phrases about the pandemic that people are tired of hearing

Dictionary.com took to Twitter to ask its followers about common words and phrases surrounding the pandemic that they never want to hear again.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to dominate headlines across the country, there are some words and phrases people are tired of hearing, according to Dictionary.com

In early May, the website took to Twitter to ask its followers about common words and phrases they never want to hear again.

Here are the results:

'New Normal'

This phrase is frequently used to capture the many changes people are experiencing in their daily lives due to COVID-19. This includes wearing masks in public, forgoing handshakes, reducing capacity in restaurants and much more.

But could the phrase be doing more harm than good?

"... using the phrase to describe efforts to fight a global pandemic implies a sense of permanence that makes a lot of people uncomfortable," Dictionary.com said. "This may be one time when it’s better to challenge ourselves to find a new phrase, rather than relying on one we already know."

Dictionary.com recommended phrases like "strange routine," "unusual standard," and "unfamiliar order" as alternatives to "new normal" since they don't imply that recent changes are permanent. 

'Social Distancing'

We've all heard it -- keep at least six feet apart, avoid large crowds and keep social gatherings down to as few people as possible, as recommended by the CDC.

"It’s ubiquitous, and it’s started to get on a lot of people’s nerves, either because they’re sick of hearing the same instructions over and over again or because the phrase itself invokes a sense of loneliness and isolation," according to Dictionary.com.

Instead, the website suggests the following phrases to use instead: communal expansion, collective absence, and sociable extension.

"[These phrases] all remind us we’re in this together, and we’re making these sacrifices in the name of being good neighbors and citizens," the website said.


We're definitely in strange times and the word "unprecedented" isn't an inaccurate description of the world we're living in now, but Dictionary.com says there are plenty of other phrases that make great alternatives.

"Instead of pulling this one out of vocabulary storage, try: bizarre, unparalleled, extraordinary, novel, unheard of or singular," the website said.


Like "unprecedented," uncertain is an accurate word to describe current events surrounding COVID-19, but, as Dictionary.com points out, it's far from the only option.

The website pointed toward words like ambiguous, dubious, erratic, precarious, questionable, speculative and inconstant as replacements.

'Trying Times'

With furloughs, lay-offs, canceled graduation ceremonies and plans, times are trying for everyone, but there are more than a few ways to say it.

Dictionary.com says the following phrases suffice: arduous, demanding, stressful, wearisome, taxing, vexing or hard.

"These so-called 'trying times' are a hard momenta vexing interval, and an arduous stage," the website said. "It’s OK to say that."

'Speaking moistly'

This phrase is (understandably) not very common, but it briefly went viral after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used it to explain the necessities of face masks. He said wearing masks can prevent people from “breathing or speaking moistly.” 

Dictionary.com points out there aren't much better synonyms to the word "moist," so instead, the website suggests sticking to the CDC's explanation that masks "prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to others.”

'Toilet paper shortage'

If you're tired of hearing this phrase, Dictionary.com has a few alternatives in mind. Instead of shortage to describe a lack in available toilet paper, try deficit or scarcity. 


Many of Dictionary.com's Twitter followers said they are tired of hearing the word "essential" when describing workers on the front line during the pandemic. The website points out that part of the problem could be that the word doesn't quite capture the importance of these roles. 

The website suggests synonyms like crucial, indispensable or necessary as good words to use.

"Another word for essential is 'required,'" the website said. "Many workers are doing risky jobs out of necessity because the ability to social distance is a luxury afforded to those who have the means, a roof over their heads and flexible work. Essential is not always the clearest way to say that."

What are some pandemic phrases you're tired of hearing? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.

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