Posted by ESC on December 19, 2004
In Reply to: Even grumpier posted by Bob on December 19, 2004
: : There's an annual list of obnoxious words and phrases published by a publicity-seeking third-rate university. This year's is at http://www.lssu.edu/banished/archive/2004.php
: : The problem is that many of the submissions are genuinely useful words, or popular slang. Slang becomes popular, I would add, because it serves a need, or describes something is a colorful, unique way. These words are dismissed by the humorless authors as "overused." Yes, of course there are some legitimate complaints sprinkled in, but such fatuous comments as "Aren't there already enough words to describe ______?" misses the point entirely. No, indeed, there aren't enough words. That's why this one was invented, and gained currency, and why you're commenting about it in the first place.
: : So the grumpy contrarian in me wants to set up a little rule: if the "overused" word (e.g., bling-bling) is popular, colorful, vivid, and describes something that would otherwise have to be described in multiple words ("gaudy chunky gold jewelry worn in conspicuous quantity by hip-hop artists and other nouveau riche fools who share their style.") 34 syllables distilled down to two? A useful word.
: I want to add a second rule. As soon as someone complains of a new word "what's wrong with _______?" you can be reasonable sure they've missed the point. From the current list, one reader submits "smoking gun" and asks "what's wrong with 'hard evidence?'" It doesn't take more than a minute's thought to detect the difference. Another reader objects to "sanitary landfill" versus "town dump." It's not high technology, clearly, but the difference between the two should be apparent. I suppose making noises in defense of Language Without Change gives some people pleasure - but they have to be ignorant to carry it off.
People in the environmental business (in the U.S. at least) turn pale if you use the word "dump" to mean a "landfill." Seriously. I have witnessed it. From How Stuff Works:
There are two ways to bury trash:
Dump - an open hole in the ground where trash is buried and that has various animals (rats, mice, birds) swarming around. (This is most people's idea of a landfill!)
Landfill - carefully designed structure built into or on top of the ground in which trash is isolated from the surrounding environment (groundwater, air, rain). This isolation is accomplished with a bottom liner and daily covering of soil.
Sanitary landfill - landfill that uses a clay liner to isolate the trash from the environment
Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill - uses a synthetic (plastic) liner to isolate the trash from the environment