Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stupid Words That Everyone Uses Too Often

I love words. I love using them, playing with them, running around in circles in the woods with them and bundling them into sentences like duffel bags into an overhead luggage rack, but some of them just drive me batshit crazy. People (coughNFLcoaches, corporatespeak, /cough) use them too often, they become clich├ęd and lose their meaning, and they just plain become unsightly to the ears (there isn't, sadly, a word for that as far as I know). Here's a few of the ones that drive me nuts:

Brace Yourselves, Readers: He's On A Rant

“Internalize”. What was wrong with "think about"?

“Sociopolitical”, or more often "Socioeconomic": This is code for "I don't know what's going on with this big complicated issue, so I'm just going to throw out this word like a Japanese fishing net and hope that what I want to say gets covered somewhere underneath".

“Cultural”, or “cultural context”: Means "I have no idea why the Tunisians did that, but there must be some logical reason, so I'll just file it under 'cultural context', or 'shit from other places that I haven't a clue what it means'".

“Societal”, or “societal pressures”: "There's a reason why X boy did Y thing. But we don't know whom to blame, so we're just mashing it into the 'society did it' category. See, this is what happens when we don't even know what our own culture is doing anymore."

“Patriarchal” or sometimes “hierarchical”: Feminists, I sympathize and it's probably completely true, but one more sentence about patriarchal structure, oppression, desire, needs, construction or bombast in my required readings and I really will scream.

“Opportunity”: This is all right in normal parlance. But in NFL coachspeak, it's not only a half-assed synonym for "chance", but it's also like "Any time we had any hope of doing something, it's an opportunity. When we screw up, it's, 'we didn't take advantage of our opportunities'."

^"Didn't take advantage of": Is it so hard to say "WE FUCKED UP, BUT GOOD?!"

“Challenges” and “Goals” are NOT the same things. Can we please stop shoehorning them into one small box? And "problems" is another word that gets stretched outside what it's supposed to do. When you have an earth-shattering crisis on your hands, it is no longer merely a problem! Escalate yo' language, bitches!

“Looking forward”, “moving forward”, “something to work towards”: I suppose it makes sense that coaches on the gridiron are spatially oriented in their flights of linguistic fancy, but for the rest of us, trying to accomplish your ambitions isn't like walking on the sidewalk, right? "Backwards", "we took a step backwards" and so forth work on the same principle. When did success become linear?

"Execute" is, apparently, a fancy way to say "Doing what we wanted to do, the way we wanted to do it". Put another way, it's like saying "We had this terrific plan. All we had to do was do it."

"Stupid". Yep, I'm guilty too. Way, way overused, and usually inaccurate. I prefer "silly" because it's fresher and more emasculating, slipping in the suggestion of 'childish' without being the first one to name-call. Perfectly bitchy.

If you've any suggestions (or clever replacements for "stupid" that you can apply to me), feel free to foist them upon me in the comments.

Suggestion A for "words we should use more often": Brutalizing. Photo taken at Milwaukee's Beans & Barley, where this was apparently a problem.


Anonymous said...

It seems important that in this global community feminists can speak freely and be heard. It even seems important that power and ideology discourse is required reading, so all students have the language for diagnosing real problems of their daily lives.

I don't know you deeply, but I know your scorn makes a difference. As white, male, and able-bodied, you occupy a position of privilege greater than that of most people in the world. Because of this, your public expressions are more equal than others, so to speak, and you can really make a lot of material impact toward building up or cutting down the people around you.

I Am Currently Exasperated With This Thing said...

I think "exasperation" is considerably more accurate than "scorn", by my lights. Also, I am separately white, male and reasonably able-bodied, thank you for assuming, but I wonder why taking a jaundiced view of feminist language automatically marks me as such?

Caroline said...

Angel, why are you reading this?

I Am Currently Exasperated With This Thing said...

Wait, okay, hang on. We can put this theory to the test. The next time I'm engaged in an ideological debate, I'll casually mention that I am indeed white, male and possessed of sound body and (I think) mind), and wait for my opponent to kowtow towards my greatness.

Anonymous said...

Andy, I probably didn't make my point clear. My argument is about access to social power that is great and valuable. It's not related to personal charisma.

Caroline, I read a lot of blogs.

I Am Currently Exasperated With This Thing said...

Would you care to provide a more expansive definition of what 'social power' is and how I may access it?

Besides which, let me pose to you a question. This is the Internet, the land of anonymous blogs. When I post something on here, what difference does it make what my gender is? How would my skin color affect the words on your computer screen? In short, how are my opinions "more equal than others'" when they're uttered through a medium that strips out the pertinent information about the writer's identity?

Anonymous said...

You make a good point that the online medium "strips out the pertinent information about the writer's identity," but use of the internet is also determined by those very indices masked. Not all the globe is wired, and not all people wired have the education to express themselves online. But the First World is, and you and I do. As economic and political transactions are increasingly mediated online, technological literacy becomes more and more an extension of social power in real life.

Who you are determines how much your words can influence others, both on and offline. My original point was that being able to say a lot is a big thing.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot your first question.

Social power is the power to make decisions that influence other people's lives.

If you are like me in having two white-collar parents and a BA, you're more likely to have a terminal career of leading or informing others, as opposed to one of unskilled and supervised labor.

If you're male, you're more likely to hold an upper management position. You're also more likely to be listened to, to be paid more, and to have the greater means of supporting people and issues that you favor.

There's potential social power in not being disabled, in not being old, in having a socially accepted body type, so on and so forth. You access by paying attention to life chances and taking them.

I Am Currently Exasperated With This Thing said...

Okay, so social power is the power to influence by one's opinion, however voiced. But all voices are not created equal; circumstances and access make sure of that. I have no access to the economic and political deliberations you referenced, nor do I command a vast audience.

However, a feminist writer (with the power to publish in academic journals, see his/her work read by multitudes of college students, etc.) would seem to have much more access than an unknown blogger. So would you not agree that such a writer, with an important message to deliver, does a disservice to both the message and their readers by voicing it poorly?

You chastised me in your first comment, saying "It seems important that in this global community feminists can speak freely and be heard". There's not a quarrel in the world I have with that idea. My complaint is simply that there are no synonyms for 'patriarchal'; it's an overused word and an overused concept. After thirty-odd years of feminist literature telling (American) students about their forefathers' faults, I think it's safe to say that the idea has been implanted. But poor writing, as I've seen in a lot of my required feminist readings, and an endless harping on the concept of patriarchal rule dilutes the impact that that concept can have.

I Am Currently Exasperated With This Thing said...

I'll leave about the bit about this whole post being humorous in nature, because that is of course irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

fair enough :)

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