Some words–too extreme, too intense, too vehement–raise my hackles. Others I find inaccurate or incorrect. And some are just tired and need to be put to pasture. Examples:
* Outrageous. Spoken with sputtering indignation. The word is a favorite of politicians, council men and women, hedge fund managers, irate people denounced or caught as having strayed, dipped sticky fingers in the till, lied in courts of law or to the SEC, cheated on spouses, uploaded videos of crotches… and generally been guilty of indiscretions or of a variety of pathetic crimes and misdemeanors. This is a word to be reserved for Hamlet’s exclusive use, so he can recite in full his tirade about “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
* Decadent. Spoken with a wink and a smirk, particularly about a) rich desserts, with points for gooey chocolaty ones; b) for redecorated bathrooms, especially when done in pinkish marble and golden faucets, or $6,000 shower curtains (note: any “save vs. splurge” imitation will do as fans of the Kardashian style will not know the difference between gold and plate.) The word decadent may still describe the Borgias or civilizations fallen through their own excesses.
* Obscene. Spoken with a smirk and a wink by the happy owners of overflowing closets such as Kimora Lee Simmons or the $85 million home of Petra Ecclestone in LA. May still be used to qualify pornography or the above-mentioned FB-posted politician’s crotch.
* Devastated. All-encompassing description of the various types of grief, pain, frustrations and disappointments where English offers an untold number of alternatives, both Saxon and Roman. The qualifier should be strictly limited to drought-stricken regions or what’s left of towns and villages after raids by plundering hordes.
* Feel free. What kind of an idiotic recommendation is that? Why wouldn’t I feel free to ask additional information as needed or pick up a flyer or a mint? And while on the subject of “free,” what would it take to remove the qualifier from its usual companion, “gift?” What ground-swell revolt would it take to go back to the pure and simple “gift,” free by nature?
* Irony/ironical. Is this what makes us hip? A snarky reference to contemporary mores in a period piece/movie/fashionable getup? Sneakers with an evening dress? Ending an elegy with a joke? Is the use of irony an indication of our detachment from unbecoming involvement? How about being direct, with nary an allusion to more sophisticated, second-degree cultural mores?
* Reschedule. The word I have carved on the tombstone of many an abandoned friendship, the word that has caused me to bypass opportunities and refuse invitations. What do you mean, “can we reschedule?” Actually, I know what you mean. I am not a priority, something more important came up, you’ll “pencil me in” when convenient. Sorry, that will be too late. We set a time and date, stick to it or you’ll have me out of your hair for good.
So when I come across one of these, I’ll read a different newspaper section or slide the page on my kindle, pinch-in, pinch out my trackpad and sigh, knowing full well that as a word person, I’ll continue being outraged. Ah well, I’ll console myself with some decadent dessert while, ironically, dreaming of blowing my lottery winnings on an obscenely large mansion.
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