Words that really should be banned
Special to the Daily
It’s never one of my favorite moments. There I was, sitting in the overstuffed vinyl torture chair with my rubber-tube-encased arm up on the armrest, waiting for the nurse to take the requisite four vials of blood out of me. I had already shut my eyes and screwed up my face in anticipation of the needle, when she suddenly stopped what she was doing and said sternly, “Have you hydrated today?”
“Have I WHAT?” I gulped.
“Hydrated. Have you hydrated enough today?”
I have to admit that, for various reasons unnecessary to go into, I spend more time than most in medical facilities. But in all my years of hospital-hopping, that’s the first time I’ve ever had that question asked of me.
I stopped and thought hard. Hydrated … hydrated. “Do you mean, did I drink enough water today?” I asked. “Uh, yes, yes, I’ve drunk plenty.”
And I was so thrown off balance by what I considered to be her weird terminology, I almost didn’t feel the needle go in.
Why couldn’t she have just asked me, plainly, if I had drunk enough water? It was a simple enough question, made complicated by a word that shouldn’t have been transmogrified from the simple, pleasant-sounding adjective that it used to be.
I’m sorry, but words like “hydrated” should not come in verb form. A plant is hydrated, but you water it. Same thing with people. I know I can’t do anything about this, but I’m convinced that it’s all wrong.
Another word that should never have become a verb is “grandfather.” Whenever I hear about something that’s been “grandfathered,” it makes me think of a kindly old man gathering children up on his knee. “Grandfather” should not be a business term; yet there it is. The first time I ever heard someone say “We’ll just grandfather it,” I wanted to ask them if they were going to wrap it up in blankets and feed it out of an eyedropper, like a sick baby bird. I’m sorry, but like “hydrated,” it just ain’t right.
And yes, I said “ain’t.” If people are going to use verbs like “hydrated” and “grandfathered,” then I’m going to stick by my right to say “ain’t.” Where I come from, it’s a good word.
I think my all-time hate word has to be “infrastructure.” Whoever came up with that one should be locked in solitary confinement in their own infrastructure for all eternity. I do recall, with great glee, the first time I ever heard that word used in public. It was at a national marketing meeting for a well-known children’s charity in England back more than 15 years ago. I was the designated singer for the charity so the event organizers dragged me halfway across the country by train so that I could attend the meeting and contribute my supposed American know-how. In fact, the big marketing consultant for the event was also American, a big fish in nonprofit marketing strategy brought over especially to modernize the charity’s methods.
I’ll never forget that meeting. Every third word he used was “infrastructure,” to an all-British crowd that, back then, just wasn’t savvy with Madison Avenue terminology.
Finally, the entire row where I was sitting interrupted his presentation by leaning over and asking me, loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear, “Keely, you’re an American, so you’ll know. What does this word ‘infrastructure’ mean?”
That memory helps to keep me sane when I hear the word 20 or 30 times a day, but it doesn’t make me like “infrastructure” any more now than I did back then.
Lake Superior State University in Michigan, bless them, comes up with an annual list of words or phrases that should be officially banned from the English language. This year they received 4,500 nominations, which to me seems a small number, but then, I didn’t contribute, and I know that I would have been good for at least another five hundred or so.
Some of the words that made the final cut were: “Gitmo,” “awesome,” “undocumented alien,” “healthy food” (if your sushi platter were “healthy,” they pointed out, it would still be swimming in the ocean), and, finally, the phrase, “we’re pregnant,” which never ceases to make me giggle every time I hear it. Not since Paul Anka’s mawkish song “You’re Having My Baby” has pregnancy been made so embarrassing.
I admit, I’m guilty when it comes to “awesome.” Like “Googled,” it’s one of those words that makes me feel ashamed every time I use it, but I use it anyway.
But I do agree with the word banishment committee on “chipotle.” All it means, folks, is that they smoked your jalapeno. Yet thanks to its discovery by fast food chains, “chipotle” sounds as if it were some exotic, previously-unobtainable vegetable. It’s kind of like back around 15 years ago when restaurants discovered sun-dried tomatoes and cilantro, and suddenly you couldn’t get anything that didn’t have at least one of those two ingredients in it.
One phrase I would have added to this year’s list is one that annoys the living daylights out of me: “Thinking outside of the box.” I’m sorry, but really, what the hell is that supposed to mean? And why not just say, “Thinking outside of the infrastructure?”
Anyway, to get back to my hospital story at the beginning, after I assured the nurse that I had “hydrated,” she proceeded with the blood-letting. When she had finished and I got up to go, I was tempted to ask her for directions to the ladies room so that I could “dehydrate.” But I didn’t. I wish I had.
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