Diction(w)ary

How about another re-hashed post? This, too, was part of my old blog – now a ghost blog, undoubtedly spooking the scores of forgotten and defunct “semester abroad” journals idly hovering in cyberspace – and was written, as you’ll certainly notice, shortly after New Year’s Eve. Perhaps it was the gloom and doom of the January landscape that nourished my ill-humor, but it’s certainly apparent in this entry. Nevertheless, it was fun to punch out, and I hate to let a hairsplitting effort go to waste.

So, take a gander, enjoy, and please, for the love of God, stop saying “interesting.”

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The ball dropped, the Black Cats soared, and yet another year was left smoldering in the rear-view mirror as the human race barreled toward a fresh 365-day time period. Now, while loads of multicolored confetti and party streamers used to herald 2010’s departure are trucked to the dumps on the outskirts of town, so continues the year-in-review process. One of my past entries concerned the yearly appraisal of the entertainment industry’s oftentimes mealy labor-fruits. This entry, on the other hand, concerns a more all-inclusive topic: The words we used.

Time recently composed a list of the top buzzwords of 2010, words that mercilessly peppered flashy headlines and sessions of shooting-the-bull and/or breeze with awkward run-ins at Barnes and Noble. “Vuvuzela” (see: World Cup), “Austerity” (see: European economic blunder), and “Mama Grizzlies” (see: pseudo-folksy Alaskan dolt) all made the tally of tired terms that talking heads, pundits, and writers just couldn’t stop molesting for our sensationalism-starved eyes and ears. Not long afterward, the same publication reported on a recent Marist poll and its assertion that “whatever” is the most irritating word in the English lexicon (not surprisingly, “like” was a close second).

So much talk concerning vexing verbiage got me thinking about which words I’d forever blot out from Noah Webster’s claim to fame if given the chance. Being the budding curmudgeon that I am, I’ve often daydreamed of wielding despotic control over a citizenry, forbidding even the merest utterances of words that, for whatever reason, burrow their way under my skin with rusty, raucous drills. And there’s no shortage of offenders. “Honest” (and any variation thereof) certainly and unnecessarily pollutes the imaginary word bubbles I see regularly. “To be honest, I don’t know.” “Honestly, I think you should.” “If you want my honest opinion, I think Facebook’s “Like” button is a gangrenous lesion on the backside of Generation Y.” Either our lives abound with such ungodly amounts of balderdash that it’s necessary to alert cohorts when there’s some honest-to-goodness, real-deal sincerity headed their direction, or it’s just another stock word thoughtlessly tossed into repartee as a nonessential predecessor to our impending truth. Whatever the case, it’s become a speed bump in our speech, like a scuzzy opening act from a nameless Midwestern town. Nobody cares. Just get to the Mountain Dew-sponsored preteen headliner.

Others, such as “awesome,” are irksome because they’ve reemerged slimy and ironically goofy from the womb of my peerfolk. I’ve seen “being awesome” filed under job descriptions on Facebook profiles, “Awesomeness” under areas of study, etc. A recent Rhapsody ad (found below) displays a smart phone, with the on-screen narrator proclaiming, “Yep, we know it’s awesome. And here’s how you make it even awesomer.” Between the smugly hip stab at humor and the grammatical Chernobyl, I shake, rattle and roll with an old fashioned, rage-induced seizure (the Black Eyed Peas track sewn into the background certainly doesn’t help matters). I wouldn’t even know how to make my phone more awesome if I wanted to, for the paramedic doing his darnedest to keep me from swallowing my foamy tongue proves a bit of a distraction.

See what I mean?

Then there’s “ASAP.” Once a favorite of secretaries and high school gym teachers, this one doesn’t have the luster it did in the past. And good riddance. But its slow fade into obscurity has made it a devious little transgressor, one unsuspectingly hurled at me every once in a while like a haggard Viet Cong peasant from the napalm-scorched underbrush. The difference between listing off each letter of this insufferable acronym and actually saying “As soon as possible” is a mere two syllables. That’s hardly worth the cost of sounding like an officious ninny, because what runs through my mind when I hear that is, “Listen, dick, don’t expect me to waste time telling you in words how quickly I want this done, okay? We only have time for letters now, mamma’s boy.” And when it’s really, really important? Don’t spell “ASAP,” just say it. The daunting four-syllable behemoth is dashed to two, saving both time and the speaker’s image as a n0-nonsense, rock-’em-sock-’em go-getter.

But “interesting” is quite possibly the most stagnant of the lot, a word that (much like “awesome”) is churned out mindlessly on the day-to-day. As a result, I’ve become numb to it. If I’m told something is “interesting,” it means nothing to me. The word moves with the force and tenacity of a floating dandelion, gently ripped to pieces by even the gentlest puff of air, unable to make any impact. It’s non-committal, and sometimes I think its usage surges because it’s a safe bet and inoffensive, similar to when somebody tells me The Beatles is his or her favorite band. Any synonym to “interesting” is acceptable, because any other choice shows that laziness and veiled apathy played no role in its selection. Ultimately, if something is truly “interesting,” then it deserves a more “interesting” description, yes? Otherwise it’s being sold short with such a milk-and-water adjective and I, well, I’m just left uninterested.

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