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.)
A prophylactics company has not been able to contain the spunk of a city in France. Citizens of Condom, France have won their case against “The Original Condom Company,” a condoms-maker that markets itself as being from the town. However, the company’s address is to a vacant lot, while the real magic happens in Malaysia. (Ma-LAY-sia. Get it? … But, seriously, they’re not made in France, so that’s false advertising.)
This does not mean the town of Condom is off the hook, though. They’re still Condom, so they’re the butt of English language jokes, and they’re le derrière of French language jokes because the town is on the Baise river, which means “f%#k.”
So, dolphins, right? They’re pretty cool. They do flips for fish. They swim with dying kids even when they have cancer due to terrible life decisions. In return, we’ve stuck with them through a television career that began with Flipper and ended with SeaQuest (and a brief foray into film with Johnny Mnemonic), and we even felt guilty about our tuna purchases when they started using up out mayo.
But, what if we told you that it was all in vain and that dolphins have been holding out on us this whole time? What if it turned out that dolphins can speak like humans since day one, but just choose not to, even when nobody else understood us and our only solace was working at the local aquarium?
Maybe they’ll start talking if we deport all their dorsals back to the Gulf of Mexico.
Apparently, mind you, this sort of thing isn’t unheard of. Back when President Bush (Dana Carvey edition) went and visited Japan, he lost a tennis match to Emperor Hirohito and later that evening at a dinner party, he bushu suru: vomited in public.
Of course, these words never really made it into the public’s lexicon, as most people have never even heard the terms, just mainly college students, where the phrase “obamu” is supposed to be popular. Starting out by being passed around in a Kyoto University mailer, the made up word was then mentioned on Twitter. All of one grand time. That’s apparently enough to initiate societal change among young adults. Should we begin to use the word more often and keep it alive? Or should we believe in the ability to change it?
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.
Whatever you do, don’t read this out loud. There are animals all around you. Even if you don’t have a pet, there is probably a fly or a dust mite within earshot. Why should you care? It looks like animals are getting smarter.
According to a new report, dogs can understand your gestures as well as a toddler can. This explains why they both drool a lot and are content eating food you would never touch. The bad news is that they can read our body language, the good news is that you can still swear around them without them even knowing what the hell you’re talking about.
I’ve been successfully ignoring Facebook for nigh-on three months when I start getting emails about friends tagging me in notes. As an Internet celebrity, that makes me nervous: who knows what my friends are saying about me when writing 25 things about themselves?
Imagine my surprise to find they had written not a got-milked thing about me! (Are you angry? Good imagining!)