Every quarter, the Oxford English Dictionary adds new “buzz words” and their definitions.
These are words people have been using for years in every day language without having a fancy home in the dictionary (here’s looking at you, YOLO manspreading, awesomesauce, mic drop, and binge-watch).
For interest sake, over 500 words were added recently, including bug-eyes, Canadianizing, stickable, and, funny enough, skydive. I find this fascinating. Despite the fact that some of these words do make me twitch, the evolution of language is amazing, really. I mean, I bet, once upon a time, words that we now use every single day made the monks roll their eyes a bit, too.
Words like YOLO and FOMO and bae annoy me, but they may just need some time to develop. Like the new entry-level person on their first week on the job. I’m willing to give it some time and see what happens, YOLO and FOMO.
But I’m not interested in talking about new words today. I want to talk about some words that I wish would just take their severance package and retire already. Words that, perhaps, should be deleted from ye olde Oxford English Dictionary.
These are words that have been around for a while, but are just not needed or are misused all the time.
Chris’ biggest word peeves
Utilize: Please, for the love of all that is holy, can we drop this one? 99.9% of the time, a simple use will do, and for that other 0.1%? Well, you can just find a better word. This is a word that is used (not utilized) to make one sound smart, but, really, just causes many people to twitch. Remember KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid or, for the family friendly crowd, Keep it Simple Silly)? That was good advice. Let’s do that. Bye bye utilize.
Business speak: I’m going to lump a lot of words into one category here to save space (something editors like to do). Words that have zero meaning outside of the boardroom like synergy, dialogue (verb), silo, paradigm shift, blue sky thinking, and so on and so forth.
Inbox (v): An inbox is a place that houses email, but somehow people have started using this as a verb (“inbox me!”). Why? It has the same number of letters as email, so I don’t really think it’s to save letters (it is shorter than message, I suppose), and it’s still two-syllables. What, exactly, is to inbox? Did you have to think about that? If so, please stop using it as a verb.
Irregardless: This isn’t even a word, but people still use it, so it somehow made its way into our language. Time to leave the room, irregardless—your older and proper regardless has it covered.
Literally: Since many people can’t use this word properly, I suggest it take early retirement. It does sadden me, though. I was an English major after all, so I discussed literal and metaphorical meaning a lot in my academic life. But, over the past few years, people have started using literally to mean figuratively. The exact opposite of its meaning. I literally died from fright. Unless you were brought back from the dead, I’m willing to bet that no, no you did not die from fright. There was a campaign in 2015 or so to try and educate the public on the proper use of this word, but it didn’t appear to be overly successful. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to this very word abuse. Sadly, I think we need to just retire the word altogether to stop the abuse here.
Gendered words: It’s 2017, folks. We can do better than policeman, manpower, and mankind. How about: police officer, worker, humankind (or just people). There, that wasn’t too hard, was it? Now, what about freshman, middleman, man (verb)? Try: first-year student, go-between/intermediary, guard. Language is power, and using words that exclude over half of the human race intensifies the message that one gender (men) have more power than the other (women). But aren’t these just words? you ask. Aren’t you being a bit ridiculous? No, no I’m not. It only takes a bit of effort to use a word that includes everyone. Women are (gasp) supposed to be equal now, folks. Let’s use words that show that.
*Note: Yup, Oxford has added mansplaining and the like to the dictionary, but this makes sense since these are words that describe a male-only phenomenon, whereas a mailman could be a man or a woman.
Shortened words: Here, I’m referring to a recent habit to shorten words because…well, I have no idea why, actually. Words like totes and the hubs and adorbs are just ridic (I mean ridiculous). Words deserve more respect than that.
Word Compensation Package
So, what can we offer these over/misused words as compensation for disappearing from the English language? I’m basically asking them something akin to the Witness Relocation Program, really. Leave no trace of your former self behind and disappear forever. Cut all ties. Move on.
Perhaps we could set up an island for all exiled words and phrases, where they could live out their days in comfort, with no one mocking them. (Like the Island of Misfit Toys…)
Eventually, they would be looked back on with endearing memories, much like we do archaic words no longer used. They’d become part of history. A moment in time. And, hopefully, if we’ve done our job correctly, a lesson.
Do you have any words to add to this list?