Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What's the good word?

I come before you today as someone who enjoys full and (hopefully) appropriate use of the English language.  I enjoy a well-written book, article, or, given that I work in corporate America, even a well-written e-mail.  I catch myself thinking or occasionally even saying "good word use" in response to something that I might see in print or hear on television or among folks I encounter in my travels.

That said, something I don't especially enjoy is how certain words or phrases appear to be overused in our current cultural lexicon, whether by celebrities, reporters and commentators, sports broadcasters, or the general public.   I'm sure that I fall in love with a "new" catch word or phrase regularly, and substitute something new for that "new" word or phrase just as frequently.  Here, then, are some of my current pet peeves in the area of linguistics:

AMAZING

There must be something about a certain age range utilizing that word all too often, as it seems I hear that most frequently from my thirty-something kids and others around that age.  I hear of people, foods, cars, purses, movies, carpet, electronic devices and all manner of things.  I guess I'm just not that readily amazed, but I find the overfrequent use of that word to be a bit tiresome.

MEME

This appears to be a word that was almost invented, as I don't recall ever seeing it, until somewhere in the past few months, it sprang up all over the Internet.  In my experience it's mostly used by folks describing something akin to a storyline, or, as I found on Wikipedia, "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."  Don't feel bad, I had to look it up, too.

IRREGARDLESS

Actually, there's no such word that I can find.  I had the misfortune of working for a man many years ago who was not nearly as intelligent or cultured as he would have had you believe.  And the most telling thing was his use--no, EXTENSIVE use--of this "word."  Here's Webster's online dictionary's take on this:

Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its fairly widespread use in speech called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927. The most frequently repeated remark about it is thatthere is no such word. There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose. Its reputation has not risen over the years, and it is still a long way from general acceptance. Use regardless instead.

For the last several years I worked under a person who used this word sometimes, alongside other classics such as "flustrated," "me and ____," "stay ahead of the curve ball" and many others.  Joy.

NOW, SOME BUSINESS TERMS

If you like "Dilbert," as I do, you see certain words and phrases run into the ground on a regular basis.  Ditto the corporate environment.  Here are some of my favorite words and phrases from corporate-speak:

Low hanging fruit
Full transparency
Actionable
Eat the frog (no, I'm not making that one up)
Circle back
Facilitate
Traction
Go-live

I could keep going, but I don't want to reinvent the wheel (sorry, couldn't resist adding one more).

So if you read my comments in this space now or in the future and feel I'm drifting into this overuse territory I decry so, please call me out on it.  Really.

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