Last week, The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk launched a game show via social media, called Questioningly. The first question asked was:
“If you could eliminate a single word from the English language, what would it be? Reasons can vary—overuse, etymological confusion, aesthetic ugliness—and need not be explained. Simply propose a word…” (Read more here.)
I was a little disappointed that the first I’d heard of this contest was via my facebook feed today, when they announced the results. I thought Mr. Greenman’s post describing the contest results was quite funny, so I hope you’ll pop over and read it. And I didn’t love it only because he used the abbreviation “cf.” Or because of his defense of the word “actually”. Or because the “runaway un-favorite” was “moist”, a word that I and my friends have discussed at length for its grossness. I loved those parts, but I also loved it because people participated! People cared! People voted for their most-hated words!
I love words. I wanted to study literature and linguistics in college, but for a variety of too-boring-to-tell reasons, I didn’t even explore it once I got there. Still, I feel little thrills of joy when I’m reading and someone surprises me with their words.
But while I love words, I guess I don’t love all of them, because I definitely agreed with a number of the nominations. Fecund, phlegm and all forms thereof. Irregardless, which, when I discovered the article at work today, sparked much discussion and inspired a coworker’s vow to use the term as much as possible in the foreseeable future. It’s not a word. And to all people who use it as a word, I would just like to say, once and for all, that because it’s a double negative, I don’t think it means what you’re thinking it means.
Here are some words I would have nominated:
- puss: Every time I read this word in one of Barbara Pym’s novels, I consciously replace it in my head with kitty.
- remediate: Because people use this word with me all the time at work, when what they really mean is “remedy.”
- chuckle and any variations thereof: The New Yorker says I don’t need a reason.
- nugget: State Spelling Bee, circa 1993-ish. Plus, I just don’t like it.
What words would you have nominated?