In the newspaper business, we deal in words like a florist deals in flowers. Trying to find just the right one, and put it in just the right place, is a real challenge.
But some words, phrases and the way they’re used are really beginning to bug me. So a week or so ago, I started a list.
Without further ado (what is “ado” and why do we need any?) here’s a sample:
- PASSWORD – this sounds like a “word” that lets you “pass” into some place you can’t otherwise get into. But often it’s not even a word, but a weird combination of numbers, letters and symbols designed to keep someone else from buying scuba gear with your credit card. And if you’re like me, you have so many passwords you can’t remember them all, so it becomes a “stopword” or a “do-not-password” or a “to-heck-with-trying-to-remember-this-&%$#@!word” word.
- PRECURSOR – sounds like the cursing you do prior to grabbing the mouse and trying to move your cursor where you want it on the government’s new health insurance website, where you do your main cursing.
- LEFT-HAND OR RIGHT-HAND LANE – an entire lane just for a hand? Is there a both-hand lane? A left-foot lane?
- GUNMAN – sounds too much like a superhero. Shooting someone does not make you a man. What about gunidiot, gunfool or gunweasel?
- THE NEW WHATEVER – as in “pink is the new black” or “50 is the new 30” or “spaghetti is the new diesel.” That usually doesn’t work out. Black keeps on being black, 50 keeps on being 50 and your pickup won’t run on spaghetti.
- CONSUMER – this is applied to all who shop, buy and use any product (all of us) but to me it conjures images of the little round Pac-Man face, just eating, eating, eating. I don’t want to be him.
- CELEBRITY – applied mostly to actors/actresses, but also to people who are just noteworthy or notorious (that Zimmerman guy, Kardashians). I refuse to celebrate them.
- REALITY SHOW – there is nothing real about a show where people pretend to live normal lives while TV cameras record it all. “Big Bang Theory” is more real. Heck, Rocky and Bullwinkle is more real.
- GLOBAL – global this, global that. Global used to mean “shaped like a globe.” In that sense, basketballs are global. My fifth-grade geography teacher was global. Things like warming have no shape of their own.
- SWEATER – why put on a garment whose stated purpose is to make you sweat? A sweater should be called a warmer, a heater or simply that weird-looking thing I got last Christmas.
- LONE FINALIST – this is a pet peeve about the school superintendent hiring process. We all know there was more than one finalist – they usually sort through 50 or 100 applicants and interview five or so. Those are the finalists. The “lone finalist” is the person they’re going to hire. They’re just keeping the other finalists’ names a secret so they won’t get in trouble back home for looking for another job.
- FILLED TO CAPACITY – how about just “filled” since no matter what “capacity” is, filled is filled? Even worse is “almost filled to capacity” or “filled beyond capacity” (that’s when the fire marshal gets involved).
- GOOGLE – How many millions of people today will stare at a computer screen and giggle over what they googled? When did this become a verb? (I guess I could google that…)
- MINOR – I heard some nut jumped onto a school bus and injured four children, whose names were not released because they’re minors. But the injuries were also minor, meaning inconsequential. Children are extremely consequential.
- CRITICAL/SERIOUS/FAIR/GOOD CONDITION – when someone’s injured and in the hospital, why would they lie there and criticize? And why be so serious? Is anyone ever in jocular condition? I’m glad hospital patients can be fair, but if they’re good, why are they in the hospital?
- meteorologist – I’ve never seen a weather forecaster predict meteors. Imagine, as the hurricane approaches, a weather person, struggling to stand in the roaring wind, yelling into the camera, “It’s OK folks! No chance of meteors tonight!”
- FUN RUN – an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or government intelligence.
A wise woman once told me there’s a lot to be said for brevity. I’m still working on that one.
Bob Buckel is editorial director for the Messenger.