Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Word That Had Better Not Speak Its Name In My Presence, Darn It

          Normally, I try not to hyperventilate when I hear a new word coinage. English is an absolute Gumby of a language, bending and stretching to create all sorts of fascinating and disturbing words with or without my approval.*

Stretchy bendy Gumby. Fun to play with;
a great metaphor for the English language.
          It is not my place to have an attack of the vapors over every misguided new coinage that slithers into the language. It is not my place to summon the Language Police for crimes against wordity. Even though, really, someone should.
          On the other hand, I have a blog to feed. A post that reads, "I heard a new word coinage today, one that grates on the ear and seems gratuitously useless not to mention a real stuffed shirt, but this is how language grows, changes, and enriches itself, so I'll just sit on my opinion and talk about how inclusive English is and finish with a chorus of 'Kumbaya'" will only make readers say to themselves, "Hah! She calls herself a blogger? She can't even work up a decent rant!" and navigate over to languagenazi dot blogorama dot com for an entertaining screed on why "disinterested" and "uninterested" are Not The Same, You Useless Pack of Cretins.**
          So in order to provide an entertaining rant, with the goal of keeping your delightful readership, dear readers, I give you "impactful."
          And now I will grab your lapels and get right up in your face and demand to know what the useless waste of brain matter who coined it was thinking. Or smoking. I will command you to strike it from your vocabulary forever. I will attempt to sue people who use it.
          Please don't worry. My face always gets red like this when I'm talking about words. No, really. Yes, and then purple. It's really fine. No, I'm not about to have a stroke.
          Because, seriously. This is a Bad Word. 
          No, not that kind of Bad Word. This is the worst kind of Bad Word, a  namby-pamby, useless, yes-man of a word. A bloodless, lifeless hull that you just know was created by a committee especially in order to be inoffensive to everyone. A word that says, "I don't actually want to make an impact at all. Really. Just ignore me. I'll just sit over here in the corner and hum to myself."
          I always ALWAYS suspect words like this of passive-aggressive tendencies. A word that telegraphs its desire to be ignored is a word that only wants you to ignore it so that it can Trojan Horse its way into your writing and wreak havoc on your otherwise sparkling prose style. So that it can make wise people—people whose good opinions you have worked so hard to get—shake their heads and sigh sadly and say, "I remember how her writing used to shine with wit and vigor. Now it reads like a PowerPoint presentation."
          "Impactful" wants you to trade the sharp, onomatopoeic smack of "impact" for the forlorn wilted petal of a redundant "-ful" which drags along with it a limply passive sentence construction and dooms you to bore and offend readers left, right, and center. "Impactful" believes that flaccid prose is not a crime against humanity. "Impactful," in fact, wants your prose to fade away like mist, having no—ahem—impact whatsoever.
          And seriously, if I hear you use it, I will send the Language Police after you. And then you'll be sorry, for they will torture you with gerunds.

*Normally—and it pains me to admit this—without my approval.

**"Uninterested" means "not interested." "Disinterested" means "impartial" or "neutral." In case you wondered. There are three remaining English speakers who make the distinction. And they're not getting any younger. Also, I don't think you're a useless pack of cretins.

1 comment:

  1. Boy, do I understand your frustration! And I know you have heard me express mine!