At the end of each year a list of words comes forth, words that have come into prominence or have been over-used during the year. At the end of 2012, the phrase that topped most of those lists was fiscal cliff. Although I’m late to the list party, I now submit my own list of words and phrases from the past year that I respectfully request we retire – or, if not that, at least use correctly.
First is “basically.” Properly used, which pretty much never happens, the word introduces the most elemental aspects of a situation or thought, as in “basically, the car slid on the ice and hit the tree.” No meandering details, no flights of opinion, just the guts of the thing. But in actual use, the word precedes an endless litany of minutiae that takes up painful minutes of time and is interspersed randomly throughout the ever-lengthening verbal barrage. The Urban Dictionary opines that if you think someone might be an idiot, you can confirm your evaluation by counting how many times he or she uses “basically” when they speak. I rest my case.
Next comes “end of the day.” Listen to any politician or pundit as they prattle on about whatever-it-is. When they’re finally getting on toward the end, they’ll say “at the end of the day … .” That little phrase is a wolf wrapped in sheep’s clothing, seeming to be a summary of the points raised in the discussion. No, it’s what a person says before putting forth what he or she believes to be the most important fact or point of the matter. Please, just skip all the verbiage and get to your point. It’s so tedious otherwise listening to you pretend to be considering a host of things, when it’s all preamble to your kill shot. If you are compelled to use the phrase, begin (and end) your remarks with “at the end of the day” and tell us what you think. Concisely, please.
Then there’s “trending,” as in, says the perky news reader on TV, “let’s see what’s trending today.” What she means is that she’s going to give you a glimpse at which of the day’s stories are generating the greatest response, as that is what the word’s definition has been hijacked to mean. We used to call such a summary a news wrap up, but it’s no longer about the importance of the story but rather about ranking the stories according to what people think of them. Trending, in my antiquated view of things, should continue to refer to a tendency or direction of something over at least a little bit of time. The new trend in scarves is pink, for example, or there is a trend to vomit when reading lists of unfortunate words. Hence, pink and vomit would be trending. The day’s happenings, no matter what you think of them, shouldn’t be considered trending. Please stop making my temples throb.
And I also offer “evil.” Everything bad that happens seems to be declared evil these days. To me – and also to a number of authoritative sources – evil connotes something sinful and wicked, something morally reprehensible. It has a religious connotation (the anti-Christ at work), and I think that’s a tricky road to travel in describing ugly speech or bad deeds or even despicable crime. Some crimes are so horrendous that they defy description, but unless you think there is an otherworldly force at work, please steer free of “evil.”
Lastly there’s a general category of acronyms used in place of the real words. Things like OMG, LOL and BFF have morphed into speech from the texting world. OK, some of that won’t kill us. But the latest, YOLO (you only live once), and its kissing cousin symbol, hashtag, have gone that one bridge too far. Yes, popular media seeps into everything and, yes, I’d better get used to it because it’s not going to go away. But I submit that there should be an allowable quota per year, a limit to how much we allow our speech to get shorthanded into unintelligible noise, when what’s trending (God help me) is degradation of language, comprehension and the way I think things should be.
Thus ends of the downer portion of this rant. I do have a kudo to offer to conclude on a happier note. Clever people are out there coining words and definitions that make me smile. I’ve encountered two recently, and I don’t know their origin, but I offer them for what, hopefully, can lighten the mood. There’s the word “beardruff,” referring to the dandruff found in men’s beards. How perfect. And the other, “epiphunny,” defined as the moment of sudden revelation when a person gets the joke.
We need more of these last submissions and fewer of the former. That’s a kind of trending I could warm up to.