The COVID-19 virus has jeopardized our health and wrecked our economy, but that’s old news. Unbeknownst to many, it has also taken a toll on our language. What follows is a countercultural but hysteria-free perspective on the novel coronavirus and a few of its irritants:

Corona masochists: This is a term I use to describe those among us who thrive on bad news. They promptly reject any study or forecast that is insufficiently horrific, and they seem to live on social media, where they gleefully share their doom and gloom with the rest of us.

In late April, two local medical doctors, Rosemary and David Stein, penned an op-ed that appeared in several publications. “In the past weeks,” the doctors wrote, “we have seen the incidence of mental health issues, anxiety, poor health and poor nutrition affect our patients far beyond what the novel coronavirus has done.”

Uh-oh. That’s the kind of information that infuriates the corona masochist, who believes — and insists that the rest of us believe — that the coronavirus is the most cataclysmic event in the history of mankind.

Corona cowards: These folks have much in common with the masochists, and the two categories often overlap. But while the corona masochist thrives on pessimism, despair and hopelessness, the corona coward is driven by paranoia and irrational fear. They rarely venture out of their homes, but when they do, they invariably sport a mask and gloves. They tiptoe around, nervously glancing about, as if the coronavirus might spring out of the shrubbery and launch a surprise attack at any moment.

The corona coward sneers at the maskless, gloveless thrill-seekers who stroll casually down the grocer’s produce aisle. (Some of those rogue shoppers also brazenly defy the “one-way traffic” signage in the aisles.)

A few weeks ago, I happened upon an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in months. I recognized her despite her mask, so I approached to speak to her. She assumed a defensive posture — stiff-armed and open-palmed, as if I were wearing a goalie’s mask and carrying a butcher knife. “Not too close!” she shrieked, and virtually ran in the opposite direction. That’s the corona coward. You’re probably familiar with the type.

Essentials: If you ask a health care professional what activities are essential, and then ask the same question of a small-business owner, you will get two very different answers. It’s a matter of priorities, and one’s profession can create “tunnel vision,” which renders one oblivious to “extraneous” concerns. A nurse’s highest priority is, of course, public health. A business owner is probably more concerned about the economy. The “sweet spot” that should determine our course of action is probably somewhere between the extremes.

Social distancing: The News & Record’s May 10 editorial, “Back to school?” declared that COVID-19 “forces social creatures to defy their nature.” Assuming one is a social creature, yes, I imagine so. But some of us are anti-social creatures, and social distancing is no imposition at all. We’ve been “voluntarily self-quarantined” for decades, and will remain so, long after the coronavirus threat has subsided.

I like being at home, cuddling with my golden retriever, reading books and occasionally watching a Netflix series. Granted, it would be nice to dine out with my wife again. But other than that, I’m perfectly content with home and hearth.

Heroes: If everybody is a “hero,” then nobody is. The soldier who storms a beach under heavy enemy fire is a hero, and so is the firefighter who races into a burning building to rescue an infant. Through promiscuous and inaccurate use, the term has been bastardized. Let’s save the designation for those who truly deserve it.

Charles Davenport Jr. is a News & Record columnist. His column appears the first and third Sundays of the month. Contact him at

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