Words R Us
I admit I have a pretty low opinion of syndicated columnists and talking heads. I refuse to call them by that irritating word pundit! I don’t know what pundit means, and anyway, graduates of the George W. Mush school of speech insist on pronouncing it “pundint.” (Maybe if a pun somehow could ding your fender that might be a pun-ding, at least in Texas.)
Okay, I’m a crank who thinks words written or spoken really matter. (R U with me so far?) Language makes us human. Wait, please don’t tell me about chimps who’ve learned sign language. I have an iguana that sings Puccini, though no one but me can tell he is singing.
I’ve given up trying to convince people that impact is a noun, not a verb, and if people don’t want to be wracked by pain and prefer to be racked by it or even shelved, I’m not going to waste any more italics on them. I’m obviously having no impact. But there are some forms of misusage I can’t give up on yet.
If you and I show up at the same dentist’s office at the same time, wearing the same necktie and get the same tooth filled by accident on National Dentists’ Day, that could be called a lot of things (stupid, for example) but not ironic.
Aside from advertisers and politicians, the worst abusers of language are the aforementioned talking heads who apply “special case” words to everything. When did “sad” become “tragic?” Is nothing “horrible” now but “horrific?” Why should U care? Because if everything is “special,” nothing is. A car crash with fatalities can be horrible, but let’s save “horrific” for events that raise horror to new heights, like the Rwanda genocide.
The people who purvey the news should choose their words more carefully, but they seem more interested in elevating their own status with made-up titles. Once television became dominant, reporters became journalists, and news readers became anchors. But we’re still getting the same “news” from each of the three commercial networks. (We don’t expect news from the Faux News network, just propaganda.) Words really matter if you’re a journalist, and you shouldn’t overuse words like “horrific,” unless you’re following the Kardashians, in which case it always is appropriate.
Words can decide elections. If a candidate calls himself a “job creator” instead of a “corporate fat cat,” he’ll probably tell you that job creators deserve a tax cut at your expense. And he’s not being “ironic.” Of course the final irony (this time, I think it works) is that the press describes such people as conservative. What exactly are Tea Party members trying to conserve? Wouldn’t calling them “reactionary” be more like it? Or how about “extremist?” Or maybe just plain “crackpots?” So pay attention, because the difference between a “conservative” and a “crackpot” could ruin this country and that would be a bummer for U and me.