Plinky prompt: If you could permanently ban a word from general usage, which one would it be? Why?
This is a toughie. I’m not one for censorship. The obvious problem is that words are like weeds: Pull one up, and two or three others spawn in its place. Can’t think of a replacement offhand? Hell, borrow some from other languages. It’s what we do here in English.
Moreover, even if you yank both signifier and sign–you still have the signified sitting there, with all its zits, grinning like Alfred E. Neuman. And sometimes that’s the real problem you have with a word–deep down inside, you want to ban the thing itself.
The problem with the words we use, love, hate, fear, and fumble for at the tips of our tongues is that they describe life. “Cancer”? People will still be sick. “Fat”? You’ll still take up a little more than your allotted seat on public transportation. “Illegal”? “Law” itself? Committees will form to make new ones by the time you get back from the john. Fundamentalist? There will always be new bombers and the Westboro Baptist Church.
If we get rid of all the words using “z” to form a plural, we still have the problematic social fear of young urban black and Latino people. “Awesome?” Banal things will still inspire awe and delight in people you look down upon. “Fuck?” Oh please, madam and sir. It’s possibly the most flexible word in the language; I propose we take it off the no-no list out of respect for its versatility: adjective, expletive, noun, verb–how awesome is that?
That said, I will admit to some peeves, and they involve the words which mean you have no idea of what you’re talking about; the ones that tell people you don’t read very much or very well. “Irregardless” always makes me embarrassed for its user. But the all time winner is “nucular.”
Another wince when falling from a friend’s mouth; I try to sit on the English degree, but it’s one of the ones that has “NUCLEAR!” popping out automatically before I can stop it. However, the people I hear use it most are responsible for the ultimate usage of the thing itself–politicians. And that scares the fuck out of me. Is it just me?