Horrible Words!

A while ago, I posted about unpopular words, after ‘moist’ was voted the least-liked word in the English language.

One word that’s come into common usage in recent years, which irritates some people, is ‘ongoing.’ I think it’s replaced ‘continuing’ because it sounds more proactive—a mini example of spin—as the speaker or writer is ‘on’ something that’s ‘going’ somewhere…whereas ‘continuing’ implies that something is dragging on, with no end in sight.

Euphemisms can be used politely to spare people’s feelings or diplomatically to obscure the true ghastly meaning, which is public relations for governments. As writer and critic Isaac Goldberg observed: “Diplomacy is to say and do the nastiest things in the nicest way.”

Thus, we get odious terms like ‘collateral damage’ and ‘friendly fire’ to denote people killed unintentionally in war zones. These days, those who are meant to be targetted aren’t killed, they’re ‘neutralised.’

I dislike the way stars and celebrities are described as “rocking” an item of clothing. It’s an extension of another silly phrase to “rock up” somewhere.

“Flaunting” gets overused, usually inaccurately. If someone is flaunting themselves or something they own, they’re doing so in an ostentatious way to attract attention. A movie star sunbathing on a private beach wearing a bikini, unaware of paparazzi with telephoto lens 400 yards away, isn’t “flaunting her considerable assets.” The prurient and judgemental Daily Mail do this a lot, pretending to be disapproving of some bimbo flashing her boobs, while displaying her flesh for the delectation of their readers.

Word choice is crucial for writers, to create the right feeling. It’s sometimes tempting to use posh words, that prove how vast our vocabulary is, but often a simple choice carries more impact. However, giving your characters linguistic quirks, through their use of slang, technical or fancy words describes them as much as listing their physique and clothing.

When reading, I’ve become alert to the author or journalist’s word choice. Yesterday, I came across what looked like a horrid way to describe pumping water from a flooded mine, that I thought must be made up. It was in a Cornish newspaper report about plans to reactivate an abandoned tin mine called South Crofty. They intend to ‘dewater’ the mine. That’s a horrid way of saying drain, but to my surprise, it’s a long-established term.

I still don’t like it as a word, and it had me wondering if adding ‘de’ to other words would work—could it be said that a medic who revived a drowning victim had ‘dedeaded’ them? If I threw up after eating a meal, have I deeated it?

Are there any words or expressions that aggravate you?

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