Thursday, May 16, 2024

Words Way Overused…

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( Three years before he took it upon himself to pee on a little girl’s campfire on national television, rapper Kanye West’s face appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly magazine. Next to the purposefully scowling image was the cover line, “Brash genius.”

West is a lot of things. Ambitious, successful, arrogant.

Genius? Hmmmm.

That word used to be reserved for the likes of Albert Einstein, Madame Curie and Louis Armstrong, people whose sheer brilliance, in ways both subtle and far reaching, left an indelible mark on mankind and popular culture.

West is neither innovator nor pioneer. Nothing wrong with that; the world is filled with those influential within the scope of established ideas and concepts. However, West’s moniker followed by “genius” do both word and rapper a disservice.

Then again, words such as genius–and innovator, legend and icon, once definitive and airtight in their declaration–are, in these days of shameless, narcissistic celebism, applied gratuitously and recklessly. In an era where cultural standards have plunged lower than the bar at a limbo championship, the spoken word has taken a serious hit. Characteristically, there isn’t a heavy explanation for the void. We’re just lazy.

Alternately anxious and lackadaisical while stuck in a multitasking trance, we can’t be bothered to communicate in more than a barely functional miscellany of basic English and trendy catch phrases. We acquaint ourselves with inspired jargon to describe people, places, situations or emotions, in the process neutering words to accommodate whim.

Thus, now everything is proclaimed “amazing,” even if realistically it is merely “sufficient” or “remarkable.” Back in the day, before the word was slowly emasculated, amazing was considered damn near Biblical. Something truly had to be amazing to be called that.

But today, let us tell it, all things are amazing, and that simply cannot be the case. It all can’t be amazing. Some things are just…”surprising.” Show “staggering” some love. Occasionally, “just okay” is more than appropriate. Nudge the boundaries of the imagination and find another word. Please.

Meanwhile, “like” and “whatever” are used, like, ad nauseam–knowhatImsayin’?

The only utterance more annoying–okay, besides “awesome“–comes after any remark made in earnest and then systematically chased with, “Does that make sense?” Answer: No. The value of whatever you said before it could either be on the mark or duly debated, but THAT line, rhetorical and self effacing by dysfunctional design, makes no sense at all.

Nor does our collective neglect of language. Relying on just a handful of words to describe everything from grandma’s meatloaf to the sex you had the night before–quite often, the same word–is akin to eating the same meal day after day or never venturing outside your neighborhood.

Why should you learn new words? Well, because there are some really useful ones out there. Because they already exist and are just sitting there and we don’t have to invent them or pay taxes on them. Because life is big, the world is wide and succinct communication, in its abiding beauty and might, is a wonderful thing.

And because language, when considered and clearly articulated, quietly commands respect. The distinction sought for your life in designer clothes, the brand you sip or what you drive can actually be found in your willingness to elaborate in a fashion that is savvy and coherent. Indeed, speaking well has about it a funky, sexy eloquence.

Nevertheless, in the cosmos of words overused, there exists a term mistreated even more than those griped about here. This word’s infinite, seductive power to entice and incite has been exploited, abused and debased since the beginning of time.

However, love is a subject for another column.

Written By Steven Ivory

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