“What word would you like banned from the English language” was the topic of conversation on a radio morning show recently. My early morning companions from local radio station CKLW in Windsor, Lisa and Mike put the call out to their listeners to let them know what word was ‘bugging them’. The listeners called, emailed and facebooked to provide words, phrases, and even some short forms they were not fond of, or in some cases, downright hated. Lisa let it be known that while it was acceptable to text message lol (laugh out loud) and bff (best friends forever), it was not okay to use the short forms in conversation. Her advice: “Use real words when talking.” She also did not like the word “sagging”. I must say, as a woman of a certain age, I agree. Sagging is neither a friendly or pleasant word (even when it is accurate).
Mike’s least favourite word? “Outfit” when it pertains to a man’s wardrobe. He said that men do not wear “outfits”—they wear suits, and they wear pants and shirts, but they do not wear “outfits”. He also mentioned that his mom always called Kool-Aid by the word Freshie, and wondered what was up with that. I must be part of his mom’s generation, because I remember drinking Freshie long before I remember Kool-Aid. To this day I still call it Freshie, and receive rather blank stares from my kids when I refer to the magic elixir in such a manner.
Some of the callers least favourite words were “buck” rather than dollar, monies instead of money, loads (as in loads of fun), kudos, and sexting (this was a hated word). Phrases that were mentioned were: back in the day, from the get go, at the end of the day, and, when it is all said and done. Many of these words and phrases do not bother me a bit, but here are few that do: grab (seems impolite), authentic (overused), organic (good word but overused), literally (irritating word), slash (violent), push (a pushy word), puce (unpleasant sounding) and distant (when someone is cold or lacking warmth).
As an exercise one day, I listed words I like and do not like. The words I didn’t like (mentioned above) were far fewer in number than the words I do like. Here is a partial list of words I like: still, mist, silhouette, joy, blessed, grace, vintage, sacred, charming, umber, intuition, Fall and Autumn, pumpkin, magic, cozy, warm, soft, jasmine, texture, linen, cashmere, dishevelled, memory, delicate, shimmer, wisdom, creative, ephemera, sharing, harvest, butter, home, cottage, quiet, silence, crazy and chaos.
There are a multitude of reasons why I like these words—some seem friendly, or simply suggest something pleasant. While dishevelled, crazy, and chaos are not necessarily comforting words, they do describe a part (hopefully miniscule) of our lives, and I like that the very sound of those words are descriptive of what they mean. A number my favourite words, if found in the title of a book or magazine article, instantly attract me. Home is a word I just love, and almost any book with the word home in it, is a book I will pick up. Fall is my favourite time of year, and quite befitting to the season is three of my other favourites: autumn, harvest and pumpkins. I am sure if you think about it there are words that you find attractive, and words you find off putting (such as off putting).
Language is a lovely and malleable thing—but it can also be crude and harsh. I have a number of words that I hate—but I cannot give you examples as they are not words that are family friendly. I imagine you know what many of them are—and a lot of them are used in mainstream conversations, and have become part of our everyday language—which is a pity. I think I will keep that wonderful wag, Mark Twain’s words in mind: “Actions speak louder than words but not nearly as often,” when I choose how to express myself.