Language Burier

I can’t help it. The more I hear the everyday chit-chat of my age bracket, the more I worry. I’m losing confidence in any intellectual legitimacy we have left, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I seem to keep noticing that we've been not-so-carefully developing a special set of terminology, reinventing a vocabulary all our own and overusing the words nearly to death. This is about those poor, guiltless words that are minding their own business and losing all meaning. And, you guys, sometimes our vocabulary kinda makes us sound like this: 

We need to step it up. So, while I can’t help my heightening sense of despair, maybe I can help by contributing to some solutions. Here are a handful of choice words that have especially stuck out to me, along with some alternative suggestions:

"I literally have no time to scratch my head."

  I began with what is probably the most obvious and unanimous word on this list, so I won't bother explaining why this is an over or misuse. It literally goes without saying. However, I will point out another misuse, when inappropriately placed within a sentence.
"Literally, I went grocery shopping and there was not one single bottle of wine left in the store." Alternative suggestions: Seriously, precisely, actually, truly, exactly, 'I'm not exaggerating'.

"I'm obsessed with your dog."

Full disclosure: I catch myself on this one from time to time. For instance, just yesterday I was in the mood to listen to some Adele. I did just that, and it got me wondering WHEN on earth she will ever come out with another studio album (for those who want to know, sources say this fall or sooner). I was curious enough to take a glance into Twitter, Facebook, and even E! online. I heard myself think, “I’m obsessed with Adele.”, followed by an immediate, “Wait. No, I’m not! Ugh, I sound like a teenager."
She had been at the forefront of my mind for like 8 minutes, and it was really the first time I’d consciously thought about her or even listened to her music in months. A strong initial reaction or thought does not, an obsession, make. If I did something like that regularly for an hour at a time, then maybe I would have a case.
Alternative suggestions: 'Really, really like', 'can't get enough of', 'all about', 'so hooked on' 'really into'.

"You should never have slapped her in the face; you are ignorant."

This term is exceptionally thrown around without a thought. Ironically, it seems those who use it most liberally are ignorant to what it actually means. 
Ignorance is opting out of becoming informed, or turning a blind eye. An appropriate usage would be, "Wow, I was totally ignorant about the history of religion until I watched that documentary. I will never look at it the same way again." Alternative suggestions: In denial, misinformed, uninformed, obtuse, closed-minded, oblivious

"That mocha was amazing."

No, it wasn't. No mocha has ever been amazing, but that's another blog. 
This word has always really irked me for some reason. There's more grey area to this one, but I look to a personal rule of thumb-- if you can't interchange the word 'amazing' with the word 'breathtaking' in your sentence without it being overkill, you're doing it wrong. 
Alternative suggestions: Fantastic, exceptional, great, outstanding, incredible.

"I can't believe people leave rude comments saying you're a crack addict and a terrible mother and you'll never amount to anything."

  That's not rude. It's abusive.
It’s not like someone neglected to RSVP (and we'll talk about that another day), didn't put their napkin on their lap, forgot to thank their hostess, didn't say please, interrupted you, or talked on their phone in a checkout line. They treated someone else as less than human. Rude is not the correct word. Rude= impolite and/or discourteous, and a misconduct of manners. It’s more about faux pas's.
To me the problem with the word isn't just that it's being misused, but that it's becoming a "blanket term" to cover any and all harshness. Blanket words quickly lose their context.
Alternative suggestions: Inappropriate, unkind, insulting, degrading, out of line, obnoxious.
By the way, the word still shines with virtue when used in this context:

Lastly, and most importantly...


"When I won second place, I was devastated!"
NO YOU WERE NOT. The long and short of it is, if you didn't hyperventilate, collapse to the floor, spend a minimum of half a day in bed, lose the will to go on, stop eating, or do at least one of the above, you were not devastated. Choose your words more carefully. Save that word for people whose homes are destroyed, or who lose a cherished family member, or whose marriage falls apart, or those who suffer another absolutely heartbreaking event. You'll actually be doing yourself a favor by using the phrase conservatively. You may BE one of those people one day and the word will actually have some gravity when you express how you feel. Alternative suggestions: disappointed, crushed, bummed, heartbroken
And there you have it- my contribution to the prevention of a cerebral famine in our lifetime. Do with this notion what you will. I won't be devastated if you literally ignore my amazing advice. Rude.