Sunday, April 29, 2012

Word Fads

              There are 44 synonyms for the word “awesome” in Roget’s Thesaurus, and I think it is high time the awe-struck used some of them. 
             These days, everyone is “devastated”, not just by tsunamis or the situation in the Middle East, but by the most trivial of concerns.
            “The bottom line”, “at the end of the day”, “24/7”,”community” (as in the International) and the word “share” are suffering badly from overuse.
            It is as if we love words which make us sound smart, important or generous. Or maybe we just roll the words around on our tongues and like the way they feel. Two years ago, people could barely get out a sentence without using the word “venue”. I think they liked the feeling of the "V", just as people are in love with the long "I".
            The smaller the vocabulary, the more dramatic the words have to be.
            In England, “brilliant” and “massive” pop up in every other sentence.
            I took down my page called “Apostrophe Control” after reading—in Jane Austen, for heaven’s sake, the words “her’s” and “your’s”. I give up. People are going to keep putting an apostrophe in the possessive “it” no matter how many of us harp at them. They don’t care if it makes them seem dumb. They’ll keep saying “Give it to she and I” because they like the way the long I sounds highfalutin.
            I don’t know how these word fads get started. Some of it is television, of course, but other fads seem to drift through the air like pollen, fertilizing the eager imaginations of easy victims. It’s the same with baby names. Suddenly all the little girls have to be named something starting with Mac or Mc, like hamburgers.
            Nouns are becoming verbs (“access”) or combining with other nouns the way they do in German (“backyard”, “boyfriend.”)
            Already there are so many acronyms around that I sometimes feel I am dealing with a foreign language rather than standard English. One of our local pharmacies has gone from being Long’s to being CVS, and nobody seems to know what those letters stand for, if they stand for anything. Do you remember when KFC was Kentucky Fried Chicken? At least the letters came from something.
              And don’t get me started on texting abbreviations, IMHO, BTW, and especially LOL. Here’s a new one: LMA. Leave me alone.
            Once in a while you’ll happen on a new combination of words which immediately produces a delightful image, as in an editorial in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, speaking of the unlikely accord between Democrats and Republicans: A kumbaya moment. OMG, wait for it. It’s a phrase too good not to replicate.