OK, I’m back. The great thing about sneaking in a post after midnight, is that it makes your absences appear less long or noteworthy. To look at my calendar, you’d think I’d only been gone a day. Where was I? How long was I gone? What was I smoking? Did it involve paramilitary and dense jungle? I’m not telling. You have to pay for that kind of information. What you can have for free is a list of words I hate.
So anyway, everybody has them. Words that make you shiver uncomfortably like a duck just walked over your grave. (If you’ve never experienced that shudder, don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’ll live forever, it just means you’ll be buried at sea. Glad I could help.) Words that you wish would be expunged from the language immediately and without fanfare to make way for new, useful swear words. Well, I have them anyway, and that’s what really matters for the purposes of this post.
Meme. I first encountered this word a year or two ago on a website that tracked stenciled graffiti and how similar stencils appeared unexpectedly in different parts of the world. (It could have been this site or this one or some other that no longer exists, I’m not sure.) For some reason, a stylized head of Andre the Giant seemed to be appearing all over the place and with no apparent explanation. (Note image to the left. I just saw this sticker under a drive in window at a Wendy’s this past weekend.)
At first, I thought it was terribly clever concept, this meme thing. But it wasn’t too long before it became painfully obvious to me that this word had become a catch-all cliche, who’s actual purpose is to indicate the hipness and intelligence of the user rather than convey useful information. Of course in no time flat it started appearing everywhere online, all the time, to describe anything. In short “meme” is the text equivalent to Emo glasses. The best part is that the word is, quite literally “me” and “me” shoved together, as if to say “me too” or “notice me, I’ve very trendy.” Enough already. What’s wrong with a word like “trend” or “concept” or “idea”? Oh yeah, I forgot, those words don’t automagically grant you hipness you haven’t earned.
Milk. No I don’t have it in for all words that start with M. I dislike this word because it’s unpleasant to say, unpleasant to hear people say, and because I’m not down with the nipple nectar. When you see me ordering a overpriced coffee concoction with soy, it’s not because I’m watching my figure (though I probably should), or because I’m Northwest granola. It’s because tree-hugger juice is the lesser of two evils in my book. The real stuff just grosses me out (though it is usually tolerable after it’s been steamed). And it sits really badly with the ol’ digestive system.
Oddly enough, I’m fine with the word “ilk” (of cliche “you and your ilk” fame). So maybe I do have a problem with ‘M’. No, wait, I like cigars with a Maduro wrapper, so it isn’t that. It must be a faulty synapse.
Symbology. Somehow, I managed to make it most of the way through a literature-heavy school career without ever hearing this word. And the first time I heard it, I thought the person saying it was an idiot with a malaprop problem. But then I did a bit of investigation. It’s a real word (damn!), but I was right about the idiocy/malapropism diagnosis. The speaker really meant symbolism, a word I much prefer.
If this word looks (or sounds) familiar to you, it’s probably because you read it in one of Dan Brown‘s books, or saw it in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code. While his use of the word is technically correct, I can’t get over how stupid the word sounds. I probably have my malaprop friend to thank for that.
Libation. I keep hearing this word, and it’s really starting to bug me. And I think it’s because nobody just says “libation”. There’s always pause for dramatic effect before or after the word, as if to silently trumpet a triple-word-score Scrabble masterpiece. Or it’s simply over pronounced, with artistic flair and false pompous accent. Dammit, can we just get back to having “drinks” or “pints” or just “beer”? Unless, of course, you really are pouring a ceremonial beverage upon the ground for the gods. In that case, forgive me and let me get out of the way. I don’t want to get any libation on me.
Simplistic. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word used where it wasn’t being misused, or at least mistreated. Fortunately, it’s been quite a while since I’ve heard it, which is just the way I like it. If this word comes to mind, think twice, you’ll probably realize you’re adding a syllable for no good reason.
I’m heavily biased against any words that end in -istic. They strike me as the lazy way of communicating any idea. Or really, not communicating an idea, communicating where the idea is likely to be found. It’s kind of like an obscure pun without the humorous payoff. And if I’m gonna do your work for you, I want to at least be amused. As I’ve said before, if you put no thought into your words, don’t be terribly surprised if I don’t put any thought into them either. “Simplistic” enough for ya?
Greedy. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not about to quote Gordon Gecko as part of my rationale. I just think this is the single most ironic word in the English language. When was the last time you heard somebody use this word (aside from your mother) when it wasn’t motivated by a measure of greed equal to that of the accused? Think about it. (But not too hard, let Brian do the thinking for you. It’s just easier that way.) This word makes a judgment call that the user isn’t qualified to make, unless they are speaking about themselves. And somehow it’s thrown around all the time in our supposedly non-judgmental society without any sense of irony.
Take for example, Paris Hilton. Some might say she’s being greedy collecting six figures for an appearance at a restaurant. But hey, you don’t know how her trust fund works. Maybe she’s on a strict budget of $20,000 a month. If, for example, she was nursing a spendy coke and Cristal addiction, it’s entirely possible that she’s living trust fund check to trust fund check. That stuff is expensive, especially if she has to share it with whomever she’s filming with on any given day! That 6 figure check will help keep jewelry out of hawk while she’s skiing down that mountain of white powder, knocking back champagne bottles and driving on an suspended license. In this scenario, I wouldn’t say Miss Hilton was being greedy, I’d just say she had expensive lifestyle requirements.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “who the hell died and left you in charge of the English vocabulary?” Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to discuss the things that took place during my deceptively short absence. Just keep an eye on the papers. If you see something noteworthy, I may have had something to do with it. Unless it was illegal. In that case, it totally wasn’t me. I have witnesses.
Well now you have ’em. A gold star to the person that comes up with the most annoying (or creative or funny) comment containing all these words. (Comments about in-again-out-again jailbird are optional.) You know you were going to write one anyway! ;)