Rob Collins

Rob Collins, editor of The Norman Transcript.

This column is about a four-letter word.

Before you get offended, you should know this word happens to have four letters but isn’t considered profane. 

I deal with words every day, so I’m bound to get annoyed at seeing certain ones.

My pandemic pet peeve is a word that’s been overloading my brain since March. I’m tired of seeing this word, which defines our world in 2020.

The word I am referencing is amid.

Amid sounds pretty innocuous at first. I used to like it. Admittedly, I used it occasionally, kind of sparingly.

It’s a little shorter than “amidst,” which the AP Stylebook advises against using. Amid is a shorter word that sounds cool.,

Amid means “in the middle of” or “surrounded.” It happens to date back to the 14th century, when the Black Death was raging in Europe.

In 2020, you can’t read a news story these days that isn’t touched by COVID-19. The coronavirus has an impact on everything. I’ve read, edited or written lots of news articles with the term “amid the pandemic.” 

If you search the term “amid the pandemic” at Google News, you get about 30,200,000 results.

“Amid” is not quite in the territory of Matt Groenig’s “Forbidden Words” list from the “Life in Hell” comic strip. But I am getting sick of it.

There are more words I’d like to hear less for the time being, like quarantine, surge and lockdown.

Someday, those will belong in the history books. But here we are, living amid the pandemic. (See what I did there?)

Now that we have a modern-day plague of our own, I take COVID-19 seriously. I’m not as young as I used to be, and I have immunocompromised loved ones to protect.

As a journalist, others may think math isn’t top of mind for me, but I know that numbers matter in this case.

Every day in newsrooms across America, journalists are using words to report numbers provided by health officials, hospitals and state leaders. They are doing this reporting in good faith in the public interest, trying to make sense of a global pandemic at the local level. 

I pay attention to those numbers, even though they are mind-numbing and overwhelming at times. 

Sadly, I see educated people attacking those numbers, waging war on numbers and words. Sticks and stones are overrated. 

Name-calling and bullying are taking over the realm of antisocial media. This barrage of hate speech borders on fighting words.

There is no grand conspiracy here, but people are agitated and looking for a scapegoat.

You’ve heard the idiom talk is cheap, but I really think words matter. Choose your words wisely.

I’m writing this on a day Vladimir Putin proclaimed that Russia registered a coronavirus vaccine. Does anybody believe those words outside of his inner circle?

We still need a vaccine to rid the world of COVID-19. In the meantime, let’s get rid of amid.

Collins is editor of The Norman Transcript. 

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