Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Trend of Terrible Words

There is a message that I need to get out to the world: We are destroying the beauty of written English. I'm not talking about using impact as a verb. I don't care about that. I mean, festoon was a noun for two centuries before it became a verb. I'm pretty happy with a lot of nouns that have become verbs. Language evolves. 

I don't care about business jargon or self-help talk, either. And I won't even get into using literal as figurative. I'm talking about something more insidious.

Let me explain before I identify the problem. Two words, in particular, stick in my craw because I hear them all the time: historical and inspirationalThese two words have nearly replaced historic and inspiring in popular culture, and pop culture is where we get used to using words. Once we grow accustomed to their use in everyday use, the devolution of the written language begins.
Image: Gavin Baker "Captcha" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Naufragio
You may not think these words are too bad or a sign of the decline of English, but they clutter the language with extra letters, sounds, and syllables that writers don't need when they seek clarity.

Is one suffix not enough? Do more syllables make people feel smarter?

I know historical and inspirational are actual words, but epidemical is supposedly a word, too. We never use it because it's an adjective, just like epidemic. So when something becomes widespread
like the use of the so-called word inspirationalwe say it reaches "epidemic proportions." Not "epidemical proportions." Both words have the same meaning and purpose.

So why do we say a house is historical when it's historic?

I don't have the answer, but if you are a person who prefers to use historical over historic, I suggest you begin using the following words. They may illicit a similar good feeling.

romantical:  "We're in a romantical relationship."
aquatical:  "I took diving lessons at the aquatical center."
toxical:  "Want to be happy at work? Avoid these 8 toxical people,"
cryptical:  "The children pass cryptical messages under the door."
hypnotical:  "His swinging testicles were hypnotical."
myopical:  "I need glasses because I'm myopical."

You can also try using phallical or orgasmical in a Women's Studies class to sound really smart.

Inspiring used to be the common word. It actually still is in print, if you check it out on n-gram viewer. But in speech, in public, on TV, and in online media, inspirational is overwhelmingly used.

Now, I understand the purpose for intentional and national and rational. We're probably not going to ask about the nutriating value of a food. Situational is not interchangeable with situating.

But why would we say there are redemptional qualities to a project when we could say the project has redeeming qualities? Fewer syllables. Fewer letters. Clearer sound. Clearer speech.

I've actually heard use of the word relaxational. Hearing that is not at all relaxing to me. Why are we making this stuff up?

Might as well start using frustrational, irritational, exhaustional, dehydrational, captivational, excitational.

That film was absorbtional.
The experience was dehumanizational.

"Never use a long word where a short one will do."  George Orwell

Cutting out an extra suffix could help us try to live up to Orwell in a minimal way.

I hope this is not confusional.

Now I can let it rest.


  1. Thank you. This post was very informational. I mean informative!

    1. And I am appreciational that you have read it!