Even grumpier

Posted by Bob on December 19, 2004

In Reply to: The Grumpy Contrarian 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 www.lssu.edu
: 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.