Or at Least Go on an Extended Leave of Absence
If there’s one thing the Internet doesn’t have enough of, it’s lists.
Here’s another one for you: ten words that should be retired from our mother tongue.
Now, I usually don’t give a damn what people say or write. As I pointed out earlier, language is man-made and is constantly changing, so anything goes.
But the purpose of language is communication—saying something. So I’ve compiled and targeted ten words that have lost all meaning, either from overuse or intentional obfuscation.
Here they are (in no particular order):
Started as a term used to described someone with a detached, rebellious attitude, but it got co-opted by Hollywood and Madison Avenue, and so now it’s a word that’s mostly used to lure you into buying a bunch of things you don’t need.
As a concept it’s also bankrupt. Only idiots care about being cool. And the harder you try to be cool, the less cool you are. Very Zen-like in that way.
Not inherently a bad word—it simply means “inspiring awe.” For example, a view of the mountains could be described as awesome, a storm on the ocean, even a movie like 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Tree of Life may merit the word.
But now people use it to describe things that are thoroughly not awesome: a trip to Six Flags, a good meal, a friend who does you a small favor, how you did on a test.
It smacks of that distinctly American habit of overenthusiastic exaggeration which makes me want to vomit.
A word that betrays the speaker’s discomfort with anything connected with art. Just say “artistic” or “bohemian” or just about anything else rather than this weak, diminutive word.
An obvious one.
“Like”—the adverb, not the verb—has struck us like the plague. More of a linguistic tic than an actual word, its meaninglessness only makes it all the more common and contagious.
I find myself sometimes dropping it into my conversation, and it takes a supreme effort of the will just to keep from saying it. Bad enough when repeatedly uttered by a teenage girl, it’s simply pitiful to hear coming from the mouth of a grown man.
This word only creates confusion. If you refer to someone as your partner, it could be your spouse, your boyfriend or girlfriend, or your business partner. It puts me in the awkward position of having to ask for further clarification. It’s a semantic trap.
After George W. Bush, no idea what this means anymore.
Conjures up images of crystals and Sedona and Stonehenge and tarot cards and dreamcatchers, none of which appeal to me.
Plus, I’m pretty tired of the assertion “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual”—kind of condescending and pretentious.
Is there an otherworldly, magical aspect to life? Of course. I prefer the term “mystical”– more poetic and evocative.
A middle-of-the-road word spoken by insurance salesmen and anchormen.
Thrown around way, way too much.
There are undoubtedly enormously gifted and/or intelligent people out there who have done remarkable things. But now it’s used to describe anyone who has done anything somewhat original or new, and once again it’s an example of the all-too-American tendency of overemphatic salesmanship.
These days, usually used passive-aggressively. When someone only wants to seem like they’re apologizing, they resort to this word, as in “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” or “I’m sorry if you were hurt.”
If you really want to apologize, say “I apologize.” It’s clear, definitive, and final. Because you really can’t say “I apologize if I offended you” or “I apologize if you were hurt.” Genuine mea culpas should permit no wiggle room.