Words… They’re Just Words… Aren’t They?

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I have to admit that I can be preoccupied, maybe even bordering on obsessive, about many things… my hair, of course, good tea, bad style… to name a few. And let’s not forget words …especially certain overused words or expressions.

I used to harp on this to my creative writing class all the time. Certain expressions or words made me go ballistic if the students used them in their assignments. One semester a lovely group of kids spent much of the last day of classes giggling and chortling as they gathered around a computer. Just before the bell, they gleefully presented me with the best worst paragraph I have ever read. It made me laugh out loud … and it broke every rule I had taught them, several times over. It was a masterpiece of bad writing! I still have it pinned to the bulletin board in my den.

These days I still roll my eyes when I hear a few particularly awful grammar errors… the use of less instead of fewer for one…or the always cringe-evoking habit of using nouns as verbs…but let’s not go there. I also get a bit hot under the collar when I hear certain words that are much overused and thus frequently misused.

One is “absolutely.” Everyone says absolutely for absolutely everything, it seems. Did you like the movie? Absolutely! Can you bring me the menu? Absolutely! Are you coming to pick me up? Absolutely! Will you finish your essay on time? Absolutely!

What’s wrong with “Yes” or “Sure” or  “I am” or “I will”? I will admit, though, that “absolutely” does seem to be dying out a bit. Thank god!

But one overworked and very annoying word that is still going strong…one might even say viral… is the use of “so.” How can one little coordinating conjunction be soooo offensive? Well, because it seems that everyone has decided that they cannot start a sentence or frame the answer to a question without preceding their remarks with “so.” I listened to an interview on the CBC science program Quirks and Quarks the other day. The scientist who was being interviewed answered EVERY question in a sentence that started with “so.” I do not exaggerate… every sentence! What is going on?

And then, horror of horrors, a week ago when my husband asked me what we needed at the grocery store for dinner that night, I replied, “So……..”  Gasp. I had caught the “so” virus!

And I was thus reminded of an incident that happened at lunch one day a few years ago in the teacher prep room at my school. One of my colleagues, who liked to use the word “so,” was attempting to relate a rather long and convoluted anecdote. He kept being interrupted by his listeners who despite their best efforts were unable to throw him off his storyline. Each time they would interject he would reply with …”So….” and keep telling his story. Until, after one interjection followed by general hilarity, he said “Sooo.” More laughter. “Sooooo.” Hoots and catcalls. “Sooooooo.” And one colleague queried, “A needle pulling thread?” And then we were off: “La, a note to follow so. Tea, a drink with jam and bread. That will bring us back to doe, oh, oh, oh….” And so on and so on. We all knew all the words. When my friend who has a voice like an opera singer chimed in , the poor storyteller banged out of the room in frustration.

Which brings me to my point. How to cure the “so” virus.

Flash mobs.

Yep. Roving flash mobs. Every time someone uses “so” in that annoying way…. a flash mob will pop out of the woodwork and sing that song from The Sound of Music and do a cool dance number. Oh, it will be such fun!

 I can see it now!

And you can see it too.

Now tell me you watched that and didn’t smile.

And imagine that happening every time someone makes annoying grammar errors or misuses words to make themselves look cool or smart.

Eh? Eh? Wouldn’t that make the world a better place?

Okay. So maybe I do get a bit carried away. They’re just words… aren’t they?

But aren’t there any words or expressions that make you cringe?


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4 thoughts on “Words… They’re Just Words… Aren’t They?”

  1. I'm here ;-}
    I think we've lost the fight against, "If you have any questions, just send an email to Ms. X or myself."
    On a related note, my skin crawls at the number of people who should know better who insist on saying "They sent an email to my husband and I."

  2. Sign me up.
    I have become a bore over grammar. I Iike the flash mob concept and might adopt it.
    My pet peeve? ' The ______ Bank – for everything you need a bank for.' It's on a billboard. It makes me grind my teeth!
    Thank you for the visit!

    1. Ah, the dreaded sentence ending preposition. I must take comfort that my former students are sufficiently sensitized to my own grammar/style "issues." They may not abide by the rules all the time…but at least they can imagine me grinding my teeth when they hear them.
      Love your blog.

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