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John Authers

Don't Blame Me for Unprecedented Use of This Word

By harping on the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus, executives are abdicating responsibility to mitigate its effects.

Paradise lost.

Paradise lost.

Photographer: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

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These are unprecedented times. The word “unprecedented” is badly overused, and is often used as an (illegitimate) defense by companies or politicians with bad news to explain away, or good news to exaggerate. As this chart of appearances of the word “unprecedented” in company disclosures from Sentieo demonstrates, corporate executives were already making unprecedented use of the word “unprecedented” last year, before making utterly unprecedented use of the word in the last three months: