I love words; I really do. The right words in the right hands can give expression to the part of man that mirrors God. But some words are just incurably, gratuitously dumb.
Redundant Words That Say The Same Thing All Over Again
Case in point: Utilize. There is absolutely no need for this word. For 500 years the word use handled things in one succinct syllable. The adaptation of a French word (utiliser, which means– gasp!– “to use”) and consequent additional two syllables did nothing to improve the English language. It merely gave its speakers an opportunity to become more long-winded and play at being fancy.
Words That Mean One Thing And Also Its Opposite
Case in point: Peruse. There is no word quite so useless as one that means a given thing as well as its opposite. If peruse can mean “to examine attentively” in one breath and “to examine cursorily” in another, then two breaths are wasted. All we know is that something has, in some indeterminate manner, been examined to some unknown degree.
Letters Crammed Together Masquerading As Words
Case in point: Irregardless. Contrary to alarmingly popular belief, this is not a word and, with its extraneous prefix, never rightly should be. Yet history proves that if enough voices repeat the same jumble of sounds enough times, a new word will be born. Humongous appeared in the late 1960s, and even just 20 years ago it was frowned upon as nonstandard; Today it enjoys full inclusion in the language. If irregardless makes similar headway, we should all be a little frightened.
Words That Just Make Everyone Uncomfortable
Case in point: Crotchety. Although it does have a long-forgotten etymological relation to crotch, this word is now meant to connote an irascible state of being. But let’s be honest: No one hears “crotchety” without predominantly and uncomfortably hearing “crotch.” Gross.
Words That Don’t Mean What You Want Them To
Case in point: Inflammable. Although derived logically from the Latin inflamare (“to inflame”), this word’s prefix is sometimes quite perilously mistaken as a negative. Inflammable was obviated by the introduction of the perfectly clear flammable. To still find it in use at all is to find the children of unknowing parents in jammies that might well burst into flames.
What words bother you? Would you make a case in favor of any of the words on my list? And most importantly, what can we do to prevent the disastrous, widespread acceptance of irregardless?