According to a count performed by Google and Harvard in 2010, there were 1,022,000 words in the English language with an estimated 8,500 words added each year. The average speaker, however, only knows anywhere from 12,000 to 21,000 words. And though that still seems like a lot, we manage to mangle, twist and abuse certain words until they not only lose their original meaning, but appear to have lost all meaning whatsoever.
If these words were leaves, they would have directly bypassed being dried out and brittle, lying on the ground for any old user to pick up and twirl around. Instead, they were deposited into the gutter and, through overuse, become a moldy, muddy, indecipherable goop that prevents the language from moving forward.
They are the words people resort to when they actually have nothing to say, usually when “you’re having just too much fun” or when it’s time to define insanity for everyone all over again. (This phrase, that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is both the definition and cause of my own insanity.)
Every year, Michigan’s Lake Superior University and I like to take stock of the English language. The school lets students nominate words that they feel have become misused, overused and cliché, and the winners are compiled into a list for your banishment consideration. This is a valuable lesson in democracy in which students learn that they can make nominations and cast votes, while a college has the liberty of overriding their decision.
We’re officially halfway through December, which means one thing: retrospective. In only two weeks, a new year will dawn, and with it comes dreams of a better tomorrow to make up for this past suckfest.
And if there’s one word to describe why 2010 sucked with extreme gusto, it’s unemployment.
2010 was the year of the job hunt and many are either still searching or settled for positions below human decency, like marketing. But it’s not their fault, right? It’s a tough job market, and they joined LinkedIn and pushed resumes like counterfeit bills in a sex mall.
Look, we hate pissing all over someone else’s linguistics work, especially when they’re pointing 0ut an overused and subsequently undervalued word. Frequent readers of this site may be familiar with my own work in this field, “Cleaning Out the Language Gutters.”
So, congratulations, John: from your hamfisted examples of Barack Obama using the word, to quotes from jackoffs realizing their “problem” and an O.J. Simpson reference, you absolutely dropped the ball on this one.
You ever notice how marketers get hooked on words or spellings? Like how everything got a “2000” after it in the ’90s to make it sound futuristic? Or anything beginning with “ex” was spelled with an “X” to remind you of snowboarders skydiving into a live volcano?
If Lever 2000, which is just f##king soap, and the X-wife that took one of your testicles in your divorce taught you anything, it’s that Madison Avenue is lined with useless professionals. By “useless professional,” I mean someone who wears a tie to an office where they produce nothing but email and post-lunch dumps.
This group, more than any, causes me to look at the English language and evaluate which words have been abused and twisted to the point that they no longer have meaning. I’ve termed this, “cleaning out the language gutters,” in the same spirit that Brazilians used to burn street orphans to “end poverty.”
(I may not actually solve problems with the English language, but at least I won’t have to look at the word anymore and think, “Why? Why didn’t I do something?!”)
It was brought to my attention that there are a few words that I left out of my last purge of the English language. Of course, that was not a definitive list-merely the beginning of an ongoing renovation project.
The criteria is simple: once a word has been abused, sullied and tarred-and-feathered to the point that it is rendered meaningless, I will take it to the shed and put it out of its misery with a bullet between the eyes. It’s all done humanely, and I always gather the torn out dictionary pages with some friends for a good cry. Afterwards, we get drunk and mangle the rest of the language.
Every few years, I find that it’s time to clean out the old lexicon. Everyday language is a constantly evolving collection of trendy phrases from movies, literature, music and–as The Guys would like to think–blogs.
But as time marches on, those phrases cease to remain useful. Sometimes they’re no longer relevant, other times they’ve been brow-beaten so low that they no longer hold any real meaning. It’s time to flush these five clichés so we can make room for newer, more interesting terms.