Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top Ten Fridays - Words That Suck

Finding the right word to reflect a precise meaning is one of the great joys of any communications professional. I like words. Big ones. Little ones. Words are great shakes. It's just that I'm tired of some of them.

It's not their fault. Poor bastards are usually victims of abuse by those who exploit them. Nonetheless, I am sick of the following words, and cannot countenance their further use in my presence:


Common usage: Johnny argued for simply upgrading the software, but Cindy proposed a more holistic approach.

When was the last time you saw this word used to refer to anything that remotely resembles holism (i.e., the idea that every concept within a given system is interrelated?). Usually, it simply replaces "broad" or even "good". In reality, it typically means "esoteric and untenable". Incidentally, the adverb "more" should never be applied to the term "holistic", by definition. It's like being "more" pregnant.


Common usage: As Johnny wrapped up the meeting, Suzie wanted to make sure the group embraced a more holistic approach on a go forward.

First of all, this little piece of corporate lingo is epically wrong (unless used in a physical therapy setting). Second, it is never necessary, as it is implied. So, essentially, you have a gobbledygook phrase used, solely for emphasis. Suzie might as well have asked the group to embrace a more holistic approach disco rhinoceros frenzy.


Common usage: Bushitler tried to kill the blacks with Katrina and rob the poor blind with Iraq and so he's and idiot and the voters let him obfuscate so Blackwell could steal the Ohio election.

It's like every unhinged blogger learned what this word meant on precisely the same day in November of 2002. It means to render obscure, or confuse, and it's a perfectly fine word, but it's tough on the eyes (like pusillanimous). It is often accompanied by prevaricate (to act in collusion), and almost always in the midst of some unhinged, monosyllabic rant. It's like finding a glob gorgonzola and hazelnuts in the middle of your grilled cheese sandwich.

SYLLOPLISTIC (or some variant)

Common usage: Johnny re-asserted his point, and Suzie accused him of having a sylloplistic attitude.

There's a lot not to like about this word. It's aggressive. It's long. It's meaning is nebulous. Oh, and it isn't a word. It's one of the many manglings of the word solipsistic (syllogistic is another, but is at least a word in its own right), and is usually meant to read as "arrogant", which is sort of, but not quite, what solipsistic means.


Common usage: Barack Obama biffed a press conference, and decided to turn it into a teachable moment.

The official slogan of assholes. Anyone who uses this term in my presence (unless ironically) is going to be the recipient of busted eye sockets.


Common usage: After the frat party, Doug announced he had to take a whiz. "GIT-R-DONE" said Eric.

This catch phrase was never not tiresome. That it has somehow managed to weave its way into so many of my social and professional interactions says a lot about my life choices, I think.

SILOS (or lack thereof)

Common usage: Johnny wondered aloud whether IT could keep up with the increase demand, but Suzie countered that it was important to break down silos. This was a TEAM project.

Silos are corporate-speak for "job functions". They are bad, for some reason. Therefore, employees must make an active effort to work outside of their area of expertise and share accountability. Except for admins and receptionists, 'cause no one else wants to do that crap. (note: it is still acceptable to refer to honest-to-farm silos as silos).


Common usage: Suzie later quit the company to get a Masters Degree in Peace Studies, citing her concern for Social Justice.

Social justice: The slogan of liberal double-majors since 1992. Good grief, just call yourself a Democrat.


Common usage Steve, a fierce Calvinist, impugned Larry for adhering to a flawed Hermeneutic.

Theologians utilize a wide variety of absurd-sounding and arcane language. Reason: Dorks. This is the silliest of them all. And, believe me, I've got some mad hate for "apologetics", which tends to be as ugly in practice as it is on paper.


Common usage: Johnny made fun of Steve's pink shirt. Suzie accused Johnny of Homophobia.

The colloquial meaning (bearing a disdain for homosexual behavior) makes no sense. The literal (viz. pop-psychology: The fear of homosexuality rooted in one's own latent homosexuality) makes less sense. Nobody would argue that one who is arachnophobic fears that he is, in fact, a spider. In reality, it's a putdown, and a cognitively dissonant one at that (what? You fear gays? That makes you, um, gay!)


Common usage: Johnny ordered the ahi tuna appetizer. Suzie opted for the duck confit.

First of all, the word is pronounced con-fee. That is awful. Second, confit refers to a manner of food preservation. It is not, as half the restaurant menus in Minneapolis would lead you to believe, simply an artsy conglomeration of meat and (maybe) sauce. The word tells you nothing about what is in a particular dish.


Blogger Sir Omer said...

I've been thinking of doing a post like this. Here's my list:

Messers, as in Mr/Mrs for plural people. This has been kicked around in political articles ad nauseum lately.

Chutzpah, one of Obama's token colloquialisms. See also: hoodwink and bamboozle.

Wonk, and all its variants: wonky, wonkish, wonkiness. Somehow egomaniacal and quirky, all rolled into one.

Out of Touch, just means 'you disagree with me.' See Pelosi on the conservative healthcare protesters vs. the 2002-2004 Iraq war protesters.

3:29 PM  

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