Let’s kill all the words

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?

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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44 Responses to Let’s kill all the words

  1. Sacha Black says:

    Excellent post. I love this debate. I know a bunch of people who hate the word moist. I adore it FOR that reason! It’s in the same boat as clammy! I love saying it and watching people cringe!

    I don’t think there’s a single word I’d get rid of because they are all so delicious.

    My faves are the ones that make people cringe Cunt, being one of my faves. My god it’s so expressive you can spit the word, you know?! and the shock and horror of dropping an appropriately timed C-bomb is just divine!

    I’d remove words if it were to a room 101 so the meaning and concept were gone too – bureaucracy being one.

    The only thing I disagree with in this post is ‘ta’. I find Ta to be most useful! Means kids learn manners faster than they can speak – it’s not like they say it for long either just a few months till they can curl their tongues around a Cuh sound and two worded phrases.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      We disagree? The world, civilisation, chocolate buttons, they’re all now under threat! As for the C word ( sorry I’m utterly family friendly, you see) my mother gob smacked us one day when my father was being a pompous Tory droning on about fox hunting or something. ‘That’s the problem with your father,’ she said. ‘He thinks he’s the epitome of a country gent but in fact he’s just a bit of a c***’

      Liked by 3 people

      • Sacha Black says:

        Hahahahaha your dads a hero. I actually nearly spat my drink on my desk reading that!!I have an extreme potty mouth. Which is now something akin to mild Tourettes because I can’t swear Infront of the boy what with him picking up words left right and centre so now I blurt it out in other areas.

        I love swearing. And in other languages.

        Liked by 3 people

      • TanGental says:

        I love imaginative swearing. I remember a very fraught negotiation when the lawyer on the other side said my boss ‘had a mouth like a duck’s c***’. Had a nice ring to it… Actually that’s rather inappropriate.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sacha Black says:

        You got it exactly! Nothing funnier than imaginative swearing.

        I was in the cadets as a tweeny bopper and our CSM used to do it all the time – his fave phrases included:

        “I’m guna rip your head off and shit down your neck if you…”

        And

        “I’m going to shove my drill stick up your arse and make you into a lolly pop”

        Pahahahahhaa hero!

        Liked by 3 people

  2. New Journey says:

    As I sit here trying to think of a single word I don’t like…I can’t – words can either make you or break you….love the video….and I have quit a sailor’s mouth my self….hummm

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Was going to add mine, but they seem very boring compared to Geoff and Sacha’s! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. gordon759 says:

    What you are describing is word aversion, where hearing or reading a word can make the sufferer extremely uneasy or even physically sick. There are several words I feel like that about, one of my children feels like this about the word ‘sachet’. This can make life difficult, I will not listen to a particular radio presenter as she is prone to use a word I loath. It is also unwise to mention that you suffer from word aversion as some people, who don’t believe in the condition, will think it funny to use the word in you presence.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. willowdot21 says:

    I love all words………… mostly!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have to confess that I ‘liked’ Sacha”s last comment accidentally – sorry!
    Mine is very boring, but it’s ‘button’. Ugh, revulsion! I can’t explain why!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      The Textiliste hates buttons, the things not the word. She has a lot of those hates. Small objects in large groups mostly

      Like

      • trifflepudling says:

        Buttons on clothes make me feel funny. They are so functional and pathetic. I used to hate that song Buttons and Bones when I was little. I especially hate pointless buttons, for e.g. perched on the back of a coat no reason at all, or on cardigan sleeves. They look sad. Maybe it IS buttons per se I hate! Now Beads, that is a weird word. Bead, beeead, beeaad, argh, Black, it’s all black! My eyes are pies!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Oh dear what have I unleashed…

        Like

  7. Loved the sketch. Woody for me. I can think of nothing I’d take out of the dictionary.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sue Vincent says:

    Blog. I know its origins, I love its meaning… but ’tis such an ungainly word…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Norah says:

    There are a number of words the use of which annoys me. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I can’t think of one at the moment to share. I’m definitely not into swearing though. I’ve always considered its use indicates a lack of imagination, but maybe that’s just a polite excuse. Billy Connolly is really the only one I know who pulls it off rather well.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Annecdotist says:

    Fascinating, Geoff. In all my years as a clinical psychologist I don’t think I ever came across a word phobia in this manner (or if I did, profound apologies to those I obviously didn’t take seriously enough). I now feel challenged to dredge up my own repressed word phobia, but seems I’m getting better at deploying the defence of repression – perhaps it’s one I’ll have to get back to you about.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I can understand the Vet’s aversion to ‘moist’. I am not keen on it either! ‘Pustulant’ made me laugh as I like the sound of it. I can’t bear ‘mucous’ either the word or the phlegmy, yucky substance!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Autism Mom says:

    I try not to give too much power to words and focus instead on the intent of the speaker and respond to that.

    (Too serious a response…?) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Um perhaps but stil worth saying!! I remember seeing a Biopic about Lenny Bruce – a young Dustin Hoffman – when I was at uni and there’s a scene when the police want to arrest him on obscenity charges. So he uses another word for the obscenity. Everyone knows what he means but the word itself is harmless. It really brought home how, if you let them words can be all powerful. The whole debate about ever using the N word, even though in the world if rap it us commonplace, no newspaper or radio or TV dare utter it is a case in point. We’ve invested it with so much power it is also a caricature of itself. http://youtu.be/hcJRrbwGdWo

      Like

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