Sunday, December 29, 2013

Timothy Egan has a great piece... the Times today about words and phrases that need to be retired.

With the last tick of 2013, let’s throw out the most annoying, overused and abused words of the year. A few of these terms, “twerking” or “stay classy,” die a natural death when someone like John McCain starts using them — the aural equivalent of a comb-over. Others need a push.

Egan's list includes "artisan," "brand," "gluten-free," "whatever," "24/7," "end of the day," "world-class" and "best practices." He finishes the piece by saying (his emphasis):

A final thought: I’m as guilty as anyone in letting these banish-worthy words get into print. This column is both artisan and gluten-free, an extension of my brand in a 24/7 environment full of world-class competitors. Whatever. At the end of the day, I’ll try to use best practices and resolve to do better. 

In that spirit, I renew an earlier objection to “literally.” It’s become the most overused of phony emphasis words, as in I went to the store, and they were out of kumquats — I mean, they were literally out of kumquats!

It's a good read, but I'll still use "artisan," "brand," "gluten-free," "whatever," "24/7," "end of the day" and "best practices." I'll continue to refrain from using "world-class" and "literally," though.*

While Egan blames Donald Trump for almost single-handedly running "world-class" into the ground, I would maintain that Ross Perot made it off-limits for me years ago. Not that I ever used the phrase in the first place, but anyone who uses it -- like Perot or Trump -- is clearly not "world-class."

As for "literally," my ex-sister-in-law used to use it constantly, as in Egan's example above. It seemed for a while there that everything was "literally" this or "literally" that for her. It drove me a little nuts (but not literally).

To Egan's list I'd like to add a few of my own (and I'm sure I'll think of a few more as soon as I hit "post"). The three biggest current offenders for me are "bizarre," "surreal," and "awesome." (Could we please find some synonyms for these?) And three that I will continue to resist are "dude" (not my generation), "proactive" (too business-schooly) and "think outside the box" (a definite giveaway that you have probably never thought in a creative way in your life).

P. S. I once heard a guy say that rather than be "reactive," he preferred to be "proactive." I wanted to slap him.

* I caught my mother using the phrase "7/11" the other day when she meant to say "24/7." Oh, well; she's 94.

1 comment:

WallyO said...

Hey Mike, I'd like to add two words: "anyways" and people that say "oh" for the numeric "zero"....both make my skin crawl!!