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Adjectives and Covid-19 by Elaine A Powers Author

illstration of covid-19 virus

The Oxford Dictionary describes an adjective as “a word or phrase naming an attribute, added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it.”

Okay, an adjective can add descriptive information to a noun.  This can be very useful in writing.  However, over the years, I heard what I considered inappropriate adjectives used in descriptions. I enjoy oceans and the animals that live within them.  I confess, I find it irritating when waters are described as “shark-infested.” Infested refers to a large number of animals present to cause disease of damage. However, the presence of sharks in ocean waters is not an infestation; it’s their native environment, where they typically live.  Infestation creates the illusion that all those sharks swarmed to the particular location only to attack people. Nope.

Recently, as we all struggle with the COVID-19 virus, I heard the virus referred to as “vicious.”  A virus can be virulent, and vigorous, but not vicious. Being vicious means that the virus was intentionally cruel or violent. A virus is not a thinking organism, but a piece of RNA (ribonucleic acid). Consequently, a virus cannot be vicious. There’s even debate on whether a virus is a “living” organism. That characteristic is reserved for organisms that reproduce on their own.  A virus requires the cellular machinery of another organism to reproduce.

Adjectives are very important tools in the English language. Being powerful, they should be used appropriately and wisely!

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