Thursday, December 29, 2011

Summer Gripes: Adventures in Soapboxing

If you are reading this, you speak English.

The generally accepted view is that this language is arbitrary. Basically the words we write and the sounds we make have no meaning except what we've assigned to them. We don't call a cat a "cat" because of the way the word sounds or the meaning of the letters. It's just what our parents called a cat because it's what their parents called a cat and so on and so on.

Words mean what we say they mean and this is ALL WE HAVE. The thing is, some of our best words are having their meaning changed as we speak. Remember the erroneous mantra "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me"? Yeah who cares about that? Because we are hurting our words. Below are the words I implore you not to use unless you really, really mean them:

If you just used this word, there's a very good chance you might have actually meant "really fun" or possibly even "very special." This word is potentially too significant to be used more than once every five years. For most of us, it is too significant to be used more than once in our lifetime. If you just spent the night in Berlin where you happened to stumble into a free art gallery that housed the original painting that made you want to become a painter, then accidentally shared a taxi with your living literary hero, then unintentionally consumed the most delicious meal of your life with a hobo who once lived with your deceased literary hero who in turn gives you mind-bending advice that somehow leads to you holding hands with the future love of your life three hours later while watching an impromptu outdoor concert of your favorite band in the history of the heck are you supposed to decode your evening if that guy over there just described his grilled cheese sandwich as "epic"?

Most likely what you meant was, "I'm completely grossly exaggerating" and that's just not fair. Never before has the definition of a word's antonym become a word's widely-accepted definition. After someone uses this word, you should never ever have to say, "Wait... really?" When you use this word, what you're actually saying is, you're not even going to believe what I'm saying because it is a hyperbolic caricature of reality! Do you not recognize how confusing this is?

If you have used this, you most likely just wasted ten minutes of everyone's time giving a long-winded, over-detailed version of a story and then decided to wrap everything up. Some might choose to use the phrase "to make a long story short," which, if ever employed, guarantees a boring story has just been made or is about to be made long.

The truth is, it's too late for this one; it's already ruined. To the point that its accepted definition has actually been altered to fit its mis/over-use. Isn't that ironic? No, actually; not really.

This word has become a caricature of itself and has lost all its meaning. If you cannot insert the word "preposterous" or "absurd," you are wasting a perfectly good word. Is that 1/2 lb burger you just ate "ridiculous?" Probably not; that's a pretty standard burger in American restaurants regardless of how many toppings it had. Unless you are a tiger cub and you are suckling a yellow lab, nothing you've ever eaten has been ridiculous.

You get a free pass for calling this ridiculous.

What are your favorite words to mis and/or over-use? Which ones drive you crazy when you hear them?


  1. I think this is one of the greatest posts I have ever read. Seriously, right??

    *I haaaaaate that every thing is Epic now*

  2. My word peeves are mostly food related. Why can't people just say they ate something? Why do there have to be so many creative (and disgusting) synonyms? Nosh, munch, scarf, etc etc. It makes me want to puke and puke and puke. And I am also slightly irritated when people overuse "actually" and "you know." My son is a big "um" person too and it really annoys me when he does it.

  3. Seriously? (spoken in vocal fry)

  4. I have literally wondered about this 6,000 times. What is happening to our language???

  5. It's like the word 'like'. I know I have fallen victim to sticking it in every sentence too. But try counting how many times a younger person says it in one paragraph. It's like ridiculous!

  6. I literally died reading this

  7. Crap. If you add the words "like" and "dude" to this list you delete approximately half of my vocabulary. I am a sheep. Baaah.

  8. Please come to my school and help me verbally vaporize every student there. I am daily wishing that I had a weaponized dictionary with which to destroy them.

    And don't forget "fail." Good god no word makes me crazier.

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Your comments are why I get out of bed in the morning. Just kidding. But I do like them.