Daniel Menaker

Restoration Wordware

Friday, March 18, 2011

I’ve twice listed some words and phrases and sentences that I think are overused or jargony or just language modules instead of language–I left out “go there,” as in “let’s not,” etc., so let’s not–and suggested they be avoided in writing and conversation. Here’s a list of traditional utterances that I think deserve resuscitation and newer ones that I’ve found useful, elegant, and/or witty

Mother, father–These are earthy, honest words that are being seriously supplanted by “mom” and “dad” as third-person, formal references–as in “My mom is a lawyer” and “His dad started a new business.” It’s almost as if people, especially younger people, are embarrassed to use the more dignified and traditional terms.

House–If you live in a home, you should be in need of medical or psychological assistance. If you’re not, and you live in a structure separate from others, you live in a house, as far as I’m concerned.

Obvi–A new coinage, for “obviously,” obviously, that in spite of myself I like.

Secretary–It really means something and is perfectly dignified. “Administrative assistant” is painting the lily. But that cause is lost, I realize.

Slacks–Why does everyone think this is a funny word? Do you really prefer trousers or pants, for fairly formal garments that men wear from the waist down?

Criterion–Bring back the singular, which, like “datum” before it, is in danger of extinction from the overpopulation of its own misused plural.  (Though, interestingly, “opera” was once officially a plural noun, from the Latin for “works.” So centuries can sometimes make a “wrong” usage not only sound but be right.)

Business–in preference to the substitution, somewhat euphemistically, of “enterprise.”

Gamble, gambling–Please, instead of “game” and “gaming.”

Whatever–as a one-size-fits-all conclusory word. Very useful, and, like “like,” has many different inflections and meanings. All for it, but if you’re not, well, whatever.

Story–When possible, instead of “narrative”–a word coming at us hard from academia and Hollywood at the same time.

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More No-Nos

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Twenties of people looked at the last list of words and phrases and a sentence or two that I wish no one used–a record for this so-called website. I had planned to list some more anyway, but I feel fame, or at least some minor notice, approaching, even if as a slow-moving speck from a vast distance, so here’s another list, a little sooner than planned.

  1. On the planet
  2. It’s not going to happen
  3. Template
  4. Teachable moment
  5. Pay it forward.
  6. Blah, blah, blah (so noisome, to me, that I gave it a blog posting of its own a while back)
  7. 24/7
  8. Time suck
  9. Move on (unless you’re talking to cattle or gawkers at an accident)
  10. Driving force
  11. Team (in any business usage)
  12. Great room
  13. Boobs (for breasts)
  14. Lifestyle

If I get more twenties of visitors, I’ll make a list of words that are out of fashion or underused which I think should be revitalized.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Here are some words and phrases that seem to me to have been debased or denatured or deflated by overuse or inappropriate use. I try to avoid them in conversation and in writing if I can–it’s not always possible.

  1. No-no
  2. Iconic
  3. Bottom line
  4. Long story short
  5. Non-starter
  6. Uncomfortable (in certain uses)
  7. Stunning
  8. On the ground (mainly military instances)
  9. Creative
  10. Tour de force
  11. Massive
  12. Deeply
  13. Mind game(s)
  14. Reach out (non-physically)
  15. Mentor

There are many others–I’ll do a second list after I try to cleanse my palate of these fifteen.

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