Some words and phrases I avoid when speaking and writing, either because they’re too trendy, too affected, or they suggest thoughtlessness.
Years ago I took a copywriter job at a big agency. “Welcome aboard,” I heard more than once the first week. We would get “on the same page” when I joined the new project. Soon after my hiring, a German company bought out the client and touted the potential “synergies” between the divisions. In due course, the midlevel marketing people jabbered about synergies as if these were available next to Hershey bars at the corner store.
And the words we were expected to use in describing the cars! Even the Dodge Stratus would optimize its innumerable features (a standard clock) and maximize the performance of its wheezy engine.
We enrich ourselves by speaking in a unique voice, having a mixed vocabulary, mimicking the poets. So it grinds me to hear the demotic idiom and to see it in print.
Stellar: In the toilet stall at the Houston airport, someone inside the cloud of methane blurts into a phone, “We had a stellar time in Texas.”
Fucking: A meaningless intensive, which is fine—even entertaining—in speech but otherwise as overused as Fourth of July sparkler sticks.
Eatery: I lived in Clinton, Michigan, for too many years, and the editor of the horrible weekly newspaper used this word in her pretentious reviews of local coffee shops. Yet I also find “eatery” in nice magazines. Next time, it might cause a detached retina.
Optics: How does Donald Trump look when he walks and Melania goes backward before him on her knees? Consider the optics.
Epicenter: An earthquake has one. Why must we intensify? Kindergarten isn’t the epicenter of early development.
Presumptive: I have a presumptive bowel movement scheduled for 6.30 a.m. while I read the Washington Post.
Sadly: On July 25, Yahoo News reported, “Lamar Odom is sadly spiraling out of control after yet another failed intervention.” Clearly and plainly, this is sad.
Will Ferrell: I’d rather write about self-driving cars.
Poop: We’re adults. Shit is OK.
-centric: The editor of an L.A. magazine dropped me from their website that was paying about a nickel a word after she decided I wasn’t L.A.-centric enough. In other words, I’m Palm Springs-based. Too bad. It was such a fucking great opportunity.
Impact: I met a guy who writes for Cisco—security stuff—and hates “impact” used as a verb. The Chicago Bears impacted the Green Bay Packers by a touchdown. Even worse, people have optimized, making it an adjective: impactful. That touchdown was very impactful to the Packers, who missed their presumptive 6.30 a.m. bowel movements.
Reach out: We are reaching out to you to buy our poopy product.
Sucks: Pleasure or servility? You suck (that’s why I like you). It sucked (I hated it). The ambiguity makes for an odious adjective, sucky. Anyone who uses it blows.