There are certain words and phrases that really deserve to die. Many, in fact, should have been strangled at birth. Some of them are fad-words. They’ll be with us for a while, and then, at some point, their very faddishness will kill them, as people move on to new and trendier words. Others, we’ll be stuck with.
Maybe we could accelerate the death of a few of the worst current examples. Could we all agree not to use these anymore?
We shouldn't burn dictionaries, but maybe we could take the scissors to a word or two
This one is so annoying because it seems that no one using it can define what it means.
There was a time, apparently, when it had a meaning on the political left, but I missed that boat and only caught on to the word when it became a subject of attacks from the political right.
I don’t have the energy to investigate it. I just want it to go away.
This phrase has been around a long time, and I don’t think it’s going to disappear anytime soon. The term was popularized by Donald Trump, who used it to refer to news stories that were true but made him look bad.
Now the phrase is everywhere. For the most part — maybe almost exclusively — it’s used by the political right. I heard it once from a Democratic U.S. Congressman who was trying to say that a story about him was untrue. He didn’t seem to understand that he was communicating exactly the opposite. He should have just called it ‘untrue’.
‘Fake news’ is actually a brilliant phrase (Donald Trump is a great marketer). It’s catchy, and it’s got multiple layers. It’s said with a wink that’s understood by the in-crowd but (at least I assume this to be the case) is taken literally by the non-in-crowd.
This word is currently number one with a bullet in my personal list of words to kill.
It’s meant as a substitute for the phrase ‘use as a weapon’, but — in the interests of efficiency, I guess — it cuts out three alphabetic characters and two strokes of the spacebar. Maybe it also makes the speaker feel sophisticated, because it’s a longer and trendier word.
To be fair, adding ‘ize’ to the end of existing words and thereby turning them into verbs has a long history. And there are a lot of words that end in ‘ize’ that I couldn’t do without. Plagiarize, for example. Hmmm. Ok, I guess ‘plagiar’ isn't a word. So forget that one.
Maybe ‘Americanize’ or ‘unionize’.
There are some such words that I admit to using (but cringing a bit whenever I do). Take ‘finalize’, for example. When I use that in business, it means to put a document or plan into final form. At least that has the virtue of saving about fifteen alphabetic characters and maybe four bashes of the spacebar. But still, I really only use it in simple business communications. In anything more formal, I’d go to the trouble of writing out the entire phrase.
But ‘weaponize’ really annoys me. I don’t think there's a politician alive these days who can speak an entire paragraph (or compose an entire tweet) without using it at least once. And now I’m seeing it creep into journalistic prose, too, and not just when the journalist is quoting one of those politicians.
I also find it annoying because most of the time the claim of 'weaponization' is nonsense. It's a loaded word being used in place of reasoned argument. When the DOJ pursues people who appear to have committed a crime, that's not weaponization, that's the DOJ doing its job. What we're seeing, I guess, is that the word 'weaponize' is being, well, weaponized.
On the bright side, I think this one is just a fad, and it will go away as soon as people get tired of hearing it.
BEGS THE QUESTION
I admit it, this battle has already been lost. It’s been so thoroughly lost, in fact, that most people don’t even know that there’s a technical meaning for this phrase that has nothing to do with how you hear it being used today.
I know the technical meaning only because my high school English classes specifically taught me about it. Those classes included sessions in debate, argument, and recognition of dis-information (called propaganda back then). As part of all that, we learned about fallacious reasoning, and one type of such reasoning was to ‘beg the question’, which basically meant to skip a logical step in your argument.
But some time ago, the phrase became a replacement for the (quite serviceable) phrase ‘raise the question.’
I think I first heard this mis-use on the business news program, CNBC Squawk Box, back when I used to watch it in the morning as I got dressed for work. At the time, I thought it was really odd. Not because they were mis-using it, but because there was already a perfectly good phrase that captured their meaning. And believe me, none of the news on Squawk Box ever required a followup question so desperately that it needed to be ‘begged’ rather than simply ‘raised’. Or just skipped entirely while they went to commercial.
But, over time, I saw the phrase spread. First it became trendy. Then it became standard (standardized?).
Recently, I read somewhere that the phrase is now used almost exclusively as a replacement for ‘raises the question’. Less than one percent of usage is in the technical sense.
Like I said. The battle is lost. Jane insisted I include it here, however, because she’s so tired of hearing me whine about it.
Jim Feuerstein is co-editor of LNF Weekly; he also designs and manages the website.
Can we just agree not to use these words anymore?
This battle has been so thoroughly lost that you probably don't know what I'm talking about
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