Everyone who’s anyone has a Word of the Year. Oxford Dictionaries has selfie ¹. Merriam-Webster picked science ². The American Dialect Society went with because ³. Somewhere in there, an unknown entity called the Global Language Monitor (GLM) piped up with their selection: 404.
Okay, bzzzzzzzt, that’s incorrect. 404 isn’t a word, it’s a number. And if you can’t tell the difference you should be disqualified from participating. Who let those people in, anyway? We need to set some standards. Until we do, every Tom, Dick, and Harry will toss out words in a shameless bid for media attention.
Me, for instance. And why not? I’m just as qualified as the GLM people. No, I’m more. I can spot the difference between a word and a number like that, snap. Plus, I have a lifetime of experience with words. I know body language, too, but wouldn’t nominate the extended middle finger for Word of the Year. Since it’s not a word (although it does speak volumes).
Come to think of it, I’m a little suspicious of science in that role and I’m not entirely sold on because. There’s nothing new or inventive about either one. Science is science; the meaning hasn’t changed. Usage hasn’t changed. The fact that more people looked up the definition doesn’t make it interesting or unique. So, since this is my post, I’m disqualifying science. It’s gone, outta there. As for because, probation for now. Selfie can stay, a legitimate choice in my opinion.
Want to know my nominee for Word of the Year? I don’t have one, I love so many. There’s quark and petard and dingleberry, apricity and fiduciary, kerfuffle and Pooterish and louche, demimonde and a zillion more. Pick one? No can do, Bub.
Here, I’ll tell you what word I absolutely loathe. Utilize. I hate it. When that term pops up in conversation, my eyes roll and the fancy talker gets all offended and huffy. Well, sorry, I can’t help myself, you pompous doofus.
Utilize — see, there go my eyes, a full circuit — ought to be stricken from the lexicon. People should be fined for uttering such a pretentious, feeble, overblown term. It’s totally unnecessary. What’s the matter with ‘use’? Huh? Is that not good enough anymore? Not la-di-da enough? Please. Simple is more eloquent than complicated. Every time.
This unfortunate trend toward the senselessly verbose must be stopped. Far too many twenty-dollar words are being thrown around when a ten-center would do just as nicely. And usually by somebody trying to sound like a scholar. With their memes (style) and tropes (figure of speech) and paradigms (model) and dystopias (think Chernobyl).
Adding extra syllables is another irksome development. Preventative, instead of preventive. Orientated, instead of oriented. Connotated, instead of connoted. Come on, what does that get you? Nothing but a longer, more complicated word. Connotated isn’t even a word, but I heard some Poindexter use it on, of all places, NPR. I wasn’t impressed with his improvisation. In fact, his misstep made me distrust everything he’d said — before and after.
You know what we need? Word Police, a mighty platoon enforcing the rules with clear-eyed, impartial vigilance. And for folks who mispronounce the words they throw around with such cavalier abandon? Five years of vocabulary rehab. No plea bargaining, no reduced sentence, no time off for good behavior. Case in point: it’s specifically, not pacifically.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fussbudget. I take my share of liberties, big, fat ones. I like breaking rules and creative usage and all that. I like how the Internet and digital technology are changing things with new words, such as squee, vom, tweeps, binge-watch, srsly, and apols. I love those. They keep language interesting and fun. Curiously, though, I’m not a fan of buzzwords, such as epic and out-of-the-box and big data. They’re yawns.
You want to look smart? Buy some eyeglasses. You want to sound smart? Avoid talking like a thesaurus.
Copyright © 2014 Publikworks
¹ Usage was up an impressive 17,000%.
² Lookups increased by 176% in 2013.
³ No longer needs to be followed by ‘of’ or a full clause.