Bad Words

This is not a post about swearing, though a couple of swears do pop up later. You have been warned.

Writers usually develop a love of words – the way they sound, the way they feel, their meanings, their subtleties. The rhythm and melody of them, and the way they roll together and form almost musical sentences.

These are not those words. These are words that I dislike, or even actively hate and want stricken from every dictionary.

Hey, no true love ever runs smoothly.

Overused Words

LITERALLY – when used correctly, I have no problems with this word. Its modern use as an intensifier, however, is a crime against humanity and, when I hear it used in this way, I literally want to rip the abuser’s arm off and beat them to death with it (which is very different to wanting to literally rip their arm off). Fortunately, as a writer, I can do all manner of nasty and painful things to people I don’t like, literally literally.

SICK – in sore need of retirement due to overwork. It used to simply mean “not well”, before it expanded to cover the act of BEING sick, and the output. You can also be sick OF something, which feels similar but isn’t quite the same. Nowadays, if someone says you’re sick, it could mean you’re feeling unwell, actively vomiting, mentally abhorrent, or really GOOD. It’s just too confusing.

QUANTUM – sorry, science, but you’re best just throwing this one out and finding a new word for “a very small quantity”. The concept has been hijacked and completely misunderstood by pseudoscience, television series, even companies selling dishwasher capsules, and there’s no way back from that.

Useless Words

OMNISHAMBLES – I actually don’t mind this word, but I feel it’s redundant. Why make a new word to describe a whole series of incompetences at once when “clusterfuck” is right there?

INFLAMMABLE – look, either change this word so it means “doesn’t catch fire easily” or retire it. Meaning the same thing as “flammable” is just confusing.

LIKE – when used correctly, it’s perfectly fine. I like chocolate. A cat is like a small tiger. It’s those times when, like, people who can’t, like, communicate properly, like, start, like, using it like a Shatner Comma that I just can’t, like…

Words that are just WRONG

DATA – actually, it’s not “data” itself I object to. It’s the plurality of it. Too many formal papers will discuss statistics by saying “the data are…” and I can feel a twitch starting. Technically this is correct (thank you, Latin) but that phrasing sounds awful. “The dataaaaaar…” It doesn’t have to be like this. Nobody uses “datum” these days, so why not simply throw out the Latin grammar and embrace “data” as a singular term? Nobody would object to a shepherd saying “the flock is in the meadow”, and “flock” is just as plural as “data”.

BREXIT – a neologism that brings out the worst in everyone in the UK, regardless of their position on the matter, and therefore clearly a term spawned from the deepest pits of Hell (also known as “government”). It would be best to pretend none of this clusterfuck ever happened. (See? Doesn’t that sound more jagged and painful than a soft, rounded, politician’s omnishambles?)

IRREGARDLESS – if you think this is a word, we can’t be friends.

Anything else?

Language is constantly changing. Some say “evolving”, which isn’t really true – words don’t reproduce and mutate in the same way – but there’s some truth in the idea. Words that were once in fashion fall out of fashion. Politically correct terms swiftly turn incorrect. Even perfectly innocent words can become tarnished through association – “retarded”, for instance, once meant merely that an object was being prevented from moving forward, perhaps by frictional forces or some form of anchor or restraint – and, conversely, terms that we consider harmless today were once extremely rude, such as “naughty”.

I don’t expect language to stop changing. I don’t particularly want it to.

But surely there’s no harm in pruning back a few of the more unsightly branches…?

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