‘Groovy.’ ‘Far out.’ ‘Totally awesome.’ There are certain words and phrases that rightfully have been relegated to the trash heap of clichés so lame their use automatically qualifies you for a handicap parking sticker. Other expunged examples from the past include ‘excellent,’ ‘…from hell,’ ‘gnarly,’ ‘bogus,’ ‘totally bogus,’ ‘Jon-Benet,’ and ‘Starring Pauly Shore.’
Another one is ‘War on Terror.’ Say what you want about President Obama. Then move on to the next paragraph.
One thing our current illustrious president, P.BO, has accomplished is the abolition of the phrase ‘War on Terror,’ a phrase coined by our former illustrious president, W. Bush. ‘War on Terror’ was so overused and religiously chanted by media outlets that it became downright meaningless—as evidenced by the continuing proliferation of terror in our society today, to include zombie movies, Stephen King novels and Nancy Pelosi press conferences.
The media had it wrong, anyway. If you listen closely to W.’s Texas accent, you will discover that he spoke not about a ‘war on terror’ but a ‘war on terra.’ A couple minutes on Google Translate will tell you that ‘terra’ is Italian for ‘land,’ which is eerily similar to the Spanish term, tierra. Combine this nugget of information with W.’s bilingual penchant for butchering Spanish and you can logically deduce that George W. Bush hates land. So much so that he was willing to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on its eradication.
It is my theory that W. had devised a plan to cover the entire earth with water and appoint Kevin Costner Secretary of Bad Movies Regarding This Scenario. It was an ingenious plan to blackmail other countries into purchasing more of our maritime manufacturing products, which are made in China. But I digress.
Given that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (no relation to Adam Sandler) is on a quest to boss us into banning the word ‘bossy’ from our vocabulary tests, I too am going to jump on the trending banwagon and see if I can’t purge a few words used by others in their selfish linguistic freedom that tend to cause me beleaguered torment and a certain amount of anguishing angst.
The word I would most like to ban is ‘like’. Not to throw it in the face of a Facebook COO or anything, but few words are used as prolifically and as inappropriately and as irritatingly as like, ‘like.’ Consider this excerpt from Monday’s Supreme Court transcripts:
Justice Sotomayor: Those employers could, like, choose not to like, give health insurance and, like, pay not that high a penalty –like—not that high of a, like, you know, tax.
Paul Clement: Hobby Lobby would, like, pay more than like, $500 million per year in like, penalties and stuff.
Justice Kagan: I like, don’t think that that’s like, the same thing, Mr. Clement. There’s like, one penalty that is like, if the employer, like, continues to provide, like, health insurance without this part of the, like, coverage, but like Hobby Lobby could choose not to, like, provide health insurance like, at all.
As you can see, repeated use of the word ‘like’ has much the same effect as placing one’s face against a running bench grinder then splashing on a spot of aftershave. Admittedly, its use by someone older than 20 does betray an air of youthful innocence. It also betrays the intellect of a rutabaga. ‘Like’ this post if you agree.
One phrase that more often than not goes along with ‘like’ that I also seek to ban is ‘you know’ as in, “It was really uncomfortable because I was like, you know, at the gynecologist.” No, I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Nobody wants to know. And stop telling me I do know lest I pummel you mercilessly with a bean-bag chair. Of course, this consequence assumes you are much smaller and less agile than I.
Other overused terms I want to ban include the tandem ‘Oh my god!’ and its somewhat less offensive counterpart, ‘Oh my gosh!’ (Ironically, the individuals who most often say ‘Oh my god!’ are the people who don’t even have one.)
In 1995, as part of the Contract with America, Congress passed a resolution decreeing that ‘Oh my god!’ and ‘Oh my gosh!’ were to be the only exclamations allowed on television, particularly in sitcoms where it is also required to make regular references to pornography for the sake of ensuing hilarity. Allow me to illustrate from the wildly popular Two and a Half Men:
Man #1: Oh my god!
Man #2: I’m watching porn.
Man #½: Oh my god!
Studio Audience: Ha!Ha!Ha! What clever dialogue! They must have the same writers as Friends!
What ever happened to the classic exclamations like Roy Orbison’s ‘Mercy!’ or Popeye’s ‘Well blow me down!’ or Condoleezza Rice’s ‘Holy flying sheepdip!’ What say we mix it up a little bit, show some creativity, be a cultural tendsetter? We need more cultural trendsetters. We also need more organic groceries. And better bridges. And decent novels. And some of those yogurt-covered pretzels would be nice.
And while I’m ranting, how about banning words that end in ‘–word’? N-word, b-word, c-word, f-word, l-word, h-word, p-word; I don’t even know what these words are any more. And what’s the point of not saying them when in fact, you are saying them anyway? People obviously don’t want to hear these words or you wouldn’t seek to codify them—and if they do want to hear them, it’s just a short trip to Red Box for a Quentin Tarantino movie.
And finally, I propose we ban the word ‘literally’ because people literally no longer know what it means. Consider this exemplary quote by Adele recounting when her voice went the way of a Malaysian airliner: “It was literally like someone had pulled a curtain over it.”
How is it exactly that something can be ‘literally like’ something else? I don’t think it can. And saying so is literally like inserting your head into your lower GI. I doubt you will ever literally jump out of your skin or literally bend over backwards or literally explode with excitement. Unless of course, you use ‘literally’ figuratively.