I read a comment piece criticising the OED for the new words that it had added to its dictionary. Twerk was the particular word in question. The commentator suggested it was dumbing down the OED even though to twirk something has been used since the mid 19th century. We do get fussed about language but the fuss is not the word, per se, but its meaning. There are plenty of examples where today’s sensitivities mean a word in common use only a while ago is no longer used in polite company and vice versa.
However the Vet made me review this dichotomy the other day. She wanted to ban a word, not for its meaning but because, well, just because it makes her cringe. I wasn’t aware she was lexiphobic until I said a cake I’d just baked – citrus poppyseed btw – was ‘deliciously moist’. To my surprise, and faint disappointment, her face scrunched, her shoulders hunched and she emitted a distinct eeew. She saw my confusion. ‘You aced the cake, dad it’s,’ *grimaces* ‘the word moist I can’t stand.’
What she meant was this word, just from its sound or maybe coupled with a meaning makes her react like fingernails down the blackboard.
That got me thinking. So I asked the Lawyer. He’d dispense with ‘coin’. And the Beautician isn’t keen on ‘aubergine’.
Do I have a vocabulary of words I would ban? Yes, as it happens. I’m really not keen on small children saying ‘ta’, though I’m happy to use ‘ta everso’ myself. I’m not happy with timpani. I wish they hadn’t named a rather beautiful avian group: tits. But – and this says a lot about my relationship with bodily functions – I’d eradicate pustulant in a heartbeat. *shivers*. Same with ‘zits’ – too American: ‘spots’ does the job well enough.
Perhaps Monty Python were on to something when they categorised words as tinny or woody. I’m definitely in the woody camp.
What about you? If you could wipe a word from the dictionary because of how you react to it and not its meaning, what would it be?