A Word With Wordmistress

Alright, everyone, gather around. Wordmistress wants a word with you.

It is time to clean up our collective vocabulary and polish our verbal skills.

I am here to help.

Hopefully, some of you found my suggestions in a previous post, Help for the Conversationally Challenged, to be an indispensible aid in your verbal exchanges.

What We All Want

Let’s agree that everyone wants to communicate clearly and effectively.  I sense enthusiastic head-nodding. Good. (You’ll notice I simply said, “Good.”) Let’s also agree that while social media has made everyone an instant worldwide communicator, it doesn’t mean that the level of discourse has been elevated.

Sadly, the opposite is true.

Since we must start somewhere, we shall consider the virulent use of certain words that are yanked from their original meanings and chucked willy-nilly into conversation.

We begin with the word “awesome.”

The TMNT Effect                                                                                                                                        

Totally.

It invaded everyday conversation in the 1980s with that hardshell crimefighting quartet, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: “That was soooo awesome!” “Toootally, duude!”  It was cute, really, when it began. My young sons awesomed and duded and fought crime vigorously for several years.

“Totally, dude” shall be given a pass. But “awesome” must be dealt with. Immediately.

This word’s actual meaning is inspiring awe.

What is awe? A mixed feeling of reverence, fear, and wonder, caused by something majestic, sublime, sacred, etc.  (Please reread.)

So,

  • You find a perfect solution to a nagging household problem on Pinterest.
  • Your child eats peas without incident.
  • Your buddy wipes out on his motorcycle, resulting in massive road rash.

Are any of these things majestic, sublime, or sacred? Do any of them excite feelings of reverence, fear, or wonder? Are you a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle? The answer is no. NO. NO. NO. Yet every day, the mundane, the near-tragic, and the stupid all receive this same response.

Awesome.

Wordmistress says to reserve “awesome” for describing God, and to find other words in your handy Thesaurus to describe things like shoe sales and the weather.

But awesome is not alone in its irksome overuse.

It has, in recent years, been joined by “absolutely.”

Glad you agree, but. . .

The idea seems to be that the gentle, affirmative nodding of the head, or a simple, “Yes, that’s true”, does not suffice anymore in conversation. One must widen (or dramatically roll) ones eyes, swing ones head forward, and say repeatedly, “Absoluuutely! Absoluuutely!” Subsequent statements must be followed by this same response.

It is as though the person to whom you are speaking is oblivious that you are in complete, and I do mean complete, agreement.

Wordmistress insists that you wait until the person is finished speaking and then calmly say something like “I agree.” The person with whom you are agreeing will likely get the message. If not, find someone slightly more conscious with whom to converse.

Necessary Inoculation

New on the Verbal Irritations list is a surprising newcomer: clearly.

It has invaded the news media and infected every reporter, anchor, and guest. And it is creeping into everyday conversation at an alarming rate.

That is why I am inoculating you here.

Do not begin sentences with clearly. It sounds pretentious and, at times, patronizing.

Wordmistress suggests that you make your comments or state your position clearly. Then you won’t be tempted to use that annoying word.

This is the Short List

Wordmistress does not want to assign too much in one post. She simply urges you to:

  • refrain from scolding people who do not have the benefit of this instruction, but instead
  • gently direct them to this website
  • lead by example

And be forewarned, “you guys” is on the Naughty List.

The Exemption

Fabulous.

There is one exception to these particular instructions of Wordmistress. It is the Fab Five, that beautiful team of gymnasts who won gold for the U.S. a few years ago.

Clearly, they were absolutely awesome.

Do you agree with my list? What words would you add?

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5 responses to this post.

  1. (Unless used in dialogue to show a character trait) Ya’ll, yous guys, my bad, have a good one, it is what it is, having said that, need I go on?, been there, done that, and got the tee shirt, to be perfectly honest with you, I’m not going to lie to you . . . and I could go on, but I won’t. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Debra, if you can edit my comment, please put an “n” in “hoest.” I hate when that happens. Oops. There’s another one.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Erin Smith on August 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Point taken, Wordmistress… thank you again for your grammar assistance:) I am guilty. To be clear and concise… I agree.

    Reply

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