Friday, September 10, 2010
Words, Disgusting Words
Everyone hates some words.
There are intellectual reasons to hate words and phrases. For instance, I hate "empower" because it got its contemporary meaning from a decade of ignorant usage. I also feel like its overuse has done a disservice to any women's movement that might have survived the '90s. I also hate, for intellectual reasons, businessy phrases such as "Please advise." Commands like that imply authority over someone, and I find them intellectually insulting. Also, due to my Heideggerian anti-technicity bent, I hate many words having to do with technology and media, such as "buzz" and "gadget."
There are stylistic and aesthetic reasons to hate words and phrases. For instance, a person who poo-poos old fashioned things may dislike archaic words and outmoded turns of phrase. I, on the other hand, dislike a lot of contemporary everything, and therefore dislike new words and phrases such as "sea change," as well as old words that have simply become fashionable, such as "deconstruct." And some words, we can all agree, are just ugly. "Defunct."
There are many sound reasons to eschew the use of a word in one's own writing, and we could make good arguments for any cringes we suffer while reading a magazine or a chick lit novel. However, the words and phrases we find most disgusting, the sight of which causes us to defenestrate the offending book, the sound of which causes us to cover our ears and shriek like King Arthur's men under the sonic influence of the Knights of "Ni," well . . .we have no reasonable explanation for our disgust, our almost bodily rejection of these slimy slovos. Some words are just fucking disgusting.
I will share mine, and then I'll share some friends' disgusting words. I'd like to solicit the reader's as well.
Words that kill me:
Trip the light fantastic
Words that kill Erica:
The list is short but Erica is getting back to me with the others (I angered her just by asking about them!) so I'll add to this soon. I seem to have mentally blocked the rest.
My first two words in the list have similar sounds. Soft sounds. I hate them most when men say them. Perhaps I feel like they can't be soft, so the words are a lie. The second pair of words are both about dancing. I don't dislike dancing. Maybe I dislike epithets for dancing? The "fantastic" epithet here is not how the phrase was originally used. It was reworked and alluded to and ripped off a few times by successive poets and writers, and it is only in this final verbed form of it ("Let's trip the light fantastic, baby.") that makes me barf.
Erica's first two words are both about transients! I know she doesn't dislike transients. Maybe she was a sad hobo in a past life. The third word could even be a child transient.
What causes irrational word hatred? Word phobia even? Is it the sounds? (See Python "Woody and Tinny Words") Is it some repressed association? That seems likely since the words keep having things in common. (It would be easy, then, to put on a play using all of a person's worst words.) All I know is I hates me some words. Some I can explain. Some I can't. And those are the ones that make me want to break things.
Tell us your ugly, hateful words!