Pandemic, word of the world in 2020.
Following close behind at second spot would be, I guess, “protocol”. Not new or strange, as we’ve been using “protocol” in relation to diplomatic affairs, but since COVID-19 happened along we’ve been using the word as one-half of a pair, as in “health protocol”.
My dog-eared American Heritage Dictionary lists five definitions of “protocol”: 1. The forms of ceremony and etiquette observed by diplomats and heads of state. A code of correct conduct. 2. The first copy of a treaty or other such document before its ratification. 3. A preliminary draft or record of a transaction. 4. The plan for a course of medical treatment or for a scientific experimentation. 5. A standard procedure for regulating data transmission between computers. “Protocol” from the Greek “protokollon,” meaning table of contents.
When Patient X walked into the hospital six months later than his original, pre-pandemic schedule, he thought he was “walking into NASA” – everyone was in hazmat suits, no one was talking and with their masks and headgear on, doctors, nurses, technicians looked seriously serious. The visit, X said, was stressful. His doctor advised him to follow the post-surgery protocol religiously “so you won’t have any need to take more tests for another six to 12 months.” The best motivation to stay fit and healthy.
In another medical facility, Patient M was given a general information sheet – part of the protocol – laying down the rules on what to do and expect before and after surgery. In the list of payments is a sentence gently advising the patient that in case a PPE suit will be required, M should expect an additional cost (not to exceed four digits).
Protocols are designed to impart a sense of ceremonial order, a formality to underscore the significance of an event or procedure. On the lighter side, there are protocols to be followed by a bride and her bridegroom and their parents not only during the church rites but also at the engagement party, rehearsal dinner, and wedding reception. As any wedding planner will tell you, there’s a protocol governing the giving and receiving of gifts. (Alas, too many couples neglect to write their thank-you notes after opening the gifts and long after using them!)