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For Abuse of the English Language: The 2014 Acid Martini Awards

For Abuse of the English Language: The 2014 Acid Martini Awards

As you may be able to deduce from the fact that I spend so much time writing, I love language. (You little Sherlock Holmes, you!) I love my native language of English, and appreciate the little ticks and quirks that go with being able to use it well. English is considered a difficult language to learn, and there’s no better example of that than the fact that so many of the people who want to officialize English as our country’s national language have the linguistic capabilities of a seven-year-old. Maybe it’s an empowerment thing for immigrants; you know, trying to motivate them to learn to speak English better than they do? In any case, though, every now and then, little new words, suffixes, and slang terms pop up that lack the subtle sophistication of good English and come out sounding like Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit is trying to say them with a severe case of the mumps? Yeah, a lot of the more communal terms used in English drive me crazy, because it’s communal slang which slowly works its way into the common lexicon and changes the language. While I’m not against linguistic evolution, there are just some terms which should never, ever be used, for any reason. To honor the worst of the English language, I’ve created the First Annual Acid Martini Awards, named in honor of the drink I would like to offer anyone I catch using the following terms.

Totes
Apparently, this became a shorthand way of saying “totally” sometime while I wasn’t looking. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s inefficient, doing away with the finality of the S at the end of the adjective. Therefore, it can trip people up, and so it comes off as less shorthand and more of a way to blow out your windpipe at an early age if trying to use it in rapid succession. And that’s not even getting into the larger problem that exists with this term: A tote is a freaking bag!

Cray Cray
Here’s another adjective which can easily be mistaken for a noun. It can also be mistaken for a cutesy, precocious children’s nickname. Oh, look, here comes Cray Cray! A shorthand for the word “crazy,” cray cray is a failure because the most dominant letter in crazy doesn’t appear in cray cray: You don’t get that Z sound, and that makes for a term which hold less impact than the original version. So what tries to be a shorthand term for a mental condition just ends up perpetuating a bunch of negative stereotypes about people whose craziness isn’t obvious from the outside, and people will continue to mistake real crazy people for loud frat douchebros.

YOLO
Speaking of loud frat douchebros, here’s a term which we’ve started using in our craze for short, convenient acronyms which go well in cell phone texts. It’s the acronym for “you only live once,” that eternal excuse for frat douchebros to do supremely stupid things with complete disregard for the safety of themselves or those around them.

Staycation
This is a concept as old as time itself, and it’s not something I’m objecting to. My objection here is strictly with the way the millennials apparently felt the need to create a word which basically hijacked the concept and made it seem like something new and original which they thought up all by themselves. Maybe they felt the need to make the concept feel fresh and exciting, perhaps? I don’t know. What I do know, however, it that the whole idea of spending your week off from work sitting on your ass at home worked just fine when it was actually called spending your week off from work sitting on your ass at home.

Literally
This is a case where I’m not objecting to the word in itself so much as I am what the word morphed into. Literally has turned into a qualifier which is used to emphasize a greater point. This demeans the original meaning of the word, which is supposed to mean something that has to be taken as it was said. For example, if you stood in a line that was 30 miles long, you only stood in a line that was figuratively 30 miles long. If you literally stood in a line that was 30 miles long, it would have meant you physically stood in a line that physically stretched the entire length of Western Avenue. I hope whatever was at the end of that line was worth that kind of wait. I want to say I’ll literally lose my mind if people keep misusing literally like this, but I’ll only figuratively lose my mind.

Om Nom Nom
This is what Pac-Man kept saying as he gulped dots, isn’t it? It still only makes sense as the sound he makes when he eats.

Truncations
Now that I thought of this, strictly adding “totes” up there was shortening that list by quite a bit, although I do remain adamant that “totes” is by far the most vile offender. I guess I overlooked the other upscale truncations, like “amaze,” “obvi,” “whatevs,” and all the others.

Selfie
I can at least feel like this one is justified. People taking pictures of themselves on their cell phones is a relatively new phenomenon, and I abide by the belief that there’s a legitimate difference between selfies and real photographs. But that doesn’t make the word any more pleasant, and I’m hoping a better term eventually comes along that replaces it. I’m not holding my breath, though, especially not after that essay James Franco wrote about selfies.

I hope these words eventually end up going the way of other offenses of the English language like “jiggy” and that ridiculous “-izzle” suffix. Remember, language is very important. Little words can have a huge impact on people and events. We want language to be something that gets taken seriously, and the words on the list above are actively dumbing it down. So I think it’s time to start fending off these terms with a (figurative) pointy stick before the Germans start taking pity on us.

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About Nicholas Croston

I like to think. A lot. I like to question, challenge, and totally shock and unnerve people. I am a contrarian - whatever you stand for, I'm against.

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