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Thursday, September 20, 2012

They're Only Words...

"A word is dead when it's been said, some say.  I say it just begins to live that day."--Emily Dickinson

Oh, Miss Emily!  How grateful I am that you sleep in kind Death's arms, for today, the Dept. of Nance is about to wish for the demise of some common, innocent little words which, through no real fault of their own, are irksome to not only me, but also to Jared, who is teaming up with me today, just like we used to do over at our partner blog, Stuff On Our List.

Today's post was inspired by two things:  one, this article which stated that the Worst Word Ever is "panties"; and two, my reaction to a song Jared wanted me to listen to, sung by his friend Brandon "Blizz Moneybagz" Pride, a rapper.  I sent Jared the article because he, too, detests the word "panties," but he felt my objection to Blizz's liberal use of the word "bitch" in his song was evidence of my "unhealthy relationship" to said word.  We had a brief, civil discourse regarding the matter, closed it, and ultimately decided to do a post about Our Most Irksome Common Words.

These words are not grammatical concerns (irregardless); nor are they words that have obvious sexual or negative connotations rendering them horrid (slut, cancer); nor are they words that have become overused by The American Youth (awesome! amazing! like...).  These are just words that, for whatever reason, we have an aversion to. 

Here's Jared:

Sorry, Emily.  Some words have no business existing. And worse, I hate the way that they feel when I say them. Or they don’t make any sense. The following are words that I have made a conscious effort to not only remove from my own operational vernacular, but also to make an exhausting effort to avoid even having to hear. Since “panties” was already taken, and I happen to echo the sentiment that it is the worst word in the world, I will give you my second through sixth most hated words.

2. Eternity – Eternity? It isn’t any fun to say, it is cliché, and it also isn’t any fun to type. Just say forever.  And end it. We all know that’s what you meant anyhow. You only said eternity because you heard it during a Harry Potter marathon, and now you think that because it was in a movie and some plays or some shit, that it’s the best way to go. It isn’t. I have stopped saying “eternity”. And it is a decision I will stick with forever. See?

3. Sketchy – My friends say this for anything that is suspect in nature. People, food, bridges, bars, anything. And I don’t think it makes sense. Also, we have a word for that. Ready? I know it's difficult but here we go…SUSPECT! Hipsters made the word “sketchy” into a part of everyone’s everyday life. And for that, they are a suspect set of the population. My one buddy, who shall remain nameless despite my desire to expose him, describes his beard as “sketchy”. No. That isn’t what’s happening. You aren’t intentionally “growing a sketchy beard”. You just can’t grow adult facial hair and are too lazy to grab a razor.

4. Fattoush – This is an actual thing. Fattoush is, from what I understand, some sort of Lebanese crouton/salad thing. There isn’t anything else to call it. It is simply “fattoush”. But that doesn’t mean I have to be OK with it everytime someone in the office orders a fattoush salad from the Greek spot we like. It sounds like a noise that a child makes while he is pretend fighting. Or telling a story about doing a cannonball at a pool party. “I just jumped right in! FATTOUSH! I soaked everyone sitting poolside.” Someone told me recently, “Don’t worry about what you cannot control.” And I think that’s bullshit. That’s the only stuff worth worrying about. I can’t control that the Greek place calls it fattoush. Which is exactly why it stresses me out.


5.  Succulent – This word makes my skin crawl. “How is your steak?” It’s juicy. It is not succulent. Ask someone to define succulent for you. Go on. I bet they say “You know, like really tasty and juicy and stuff.” Then just say that, homey. Say you had a really well cooked chicken breast that was juicy. Anyone ever looks at me and says, “Good job on dinner. It was succulent,” and there’s an 80% chance I never talk to him again if he was serious. Only way to make this word worse? Put it next to “morsel.” “Succulent morsel.” Has to be the worst phrase ever.

6. Supper- This one makes no sense. When you eat DINNER, you are supping. That would make you the one that sups. And thus you are the supper. Not the food. What sort of sustenance does the meal get by being masticated around hastily and swallowed? "Absolutely zero" is the answer. Does that make the meal the “suppee”? I don’t know. Far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter. Because all that’s happening is someone is having dinner.

Take it, Nance:

1.  Squat--This word is ugly.  It's serviceable, but it sounds terrible and looks worse.  It reminds me of when my mother used to make me pee outside at night rather than walk all the way to the outhouse at Grandma's cabin.  It is graceless, and my underwear always got wet.

2.  Nude--I prefer "naked."  Nude sounds cold, aloof, and unseemly.  Nude sounds like business.  Naked sounds warmer and less clinical.  Nude sounds like a police report is involved.  Naked sounds like cuddling might be.

3.  Underpants--These are what elderly men wear or cruel mothers with terrible Bronxy accents yell after their children who finally get invited to a slumber party (now their last):  "Mona! Did you remember to pack a clean pair of underpants?!" Underpants sound dingy, and like what get left on a floor to be found when new tenants get the keys to a rundown apartment.

4.  Community--This poor, overworked word just reeks of poverty, causes, charity organizations, strident women with petitions, and teeshirts with slogans.  It sounds like big long tables stocked with literature and clicky pens. I hate it.

5.  Pocketbook--What a terrible, dated, dumb word!  Worse is when someone pronounces it POCKABOOK.  How this is still used to identify a purse is beyond me.  Purses are not FOR your Pocket, they are NOT BOOKS, and rarely does one use one's purse expressly FOR A BOOK.  This word really does set my teeth on edge.

Jared and I will celebrate words in our next post by selecting some of our Favourite Words!  In the meantime, do share your Cringeworthy Words in comments, or commiserate with us about some of ours.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Cranial Casserole: It's What's For Dinner At The Dept.

This post will be sort of a Dept. of Nance mixtape (or mash-up, for my younger readers who are of A Generation who have no grasp of what "tapes" might be.)  It's like Leftover Night:  a dab of This-n-That, all odd assortments that don't really go together, but perhaps you might find something that you like.


Let's dish it up.


Once a week, I do floors in the house.  (I know:  how very June Cleaver of me.)  As I was Sharking the kitchen, I took a critical look at the front grill of the refrigerator and thought, I wonder if I should clean that someday.  In consulting the refrigerator's manual as to how to remove said grill in order to do so, I was shocked.  It told me not to clean it. There is no need for routine condenser cleaning in normal home operating environments, it said.  I was pretty excited.  There it was, in writing and everything.  I read further, however, because I know from experience that, if there is more writing, there is always a catch.  ...if there is significant pet traffic in the home, the condenser should be cleaned every 2 to 3 months....  What?  What does that mean--significant?  Of course my pets are significant!  My pets are extremely significant--to me!  Who in the hell has unimportant or insignificant pets?  ("Oh, my! What a nice dog. How long have you had him?"  "What dog?  Oh, that? That's just some animal that hangs around here to finish up our table scraps. It's a nothing. We haven't even named it.")  Needless to say, I cleaned that damn thing tout de suite

Speaking of language, we have a quick guest spot from the Defender of The Language.  A rather urgent missive arrived from California Math Teacher, and we wanted to address it right away.  He writes:

Dear Defender of The Language,  I'm a math teacher, and every time I teach my students the rules of solving equations, I have a question about grammar that I keep meaning to ask you. Two of the actions that are permissible when solving equations are adding the same quantity to both sides of an equation and subtracting the same quantity from both sides of an equation. These are generally presented as one rule and written as follows: "We can add or subtract the same quantity from both sides of an equation." This seems incorrect to me, as we subtract a quantity from an equation but we add a quantity to an equation, and this sentence uses the word "from" in both circumstances. On one hand I want to make this sentence more grammatically correct, but on the other hand I want to keep their notes as short and concise as possible. What should I do?

Oh, bless you, Math Teacher from California, for caring so deeply about grammar during a math lesson.  You are absolutely correct that the preposition "from" makes no sense after the verb "add" in that mathematical statement.  One way to test its grammatical logic is to remove the compound verb phrase, thusly:  We can add the same quantity from both sides of an equation simply does not pass the test of either English grammar or basic logic.  What to do for students who want to take short, efficient notes?  You can either heave a sigh of regret and press on, knowing that the basic understanding is still conveyed despite the grammatical misstep, or you can employ the slash in this manner:    "We can add or subtract the same quantity to/from both sides of an equation."  As a Defender of The Language, I naturally prefer the latter.

Thank you, Defender of The Language, for responding so quickly to this query.  As always, if you or anyone you know has a mechanics, usage, grammar, or spelling concern for the Defender, please send it to me here at the Dept.  My email link can be found in my sidebar.

Finally, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has again printed an intriguing obituary.  I must share it with you.  When I looked at the photo, I did a very cartoon-esque double-take.  I read the accompanying writeup with care, as I always do, and I smiled.  What a wonderful family this man must have.  What a great time he must have had with them all, and what memories they must have made together.  As I have often said when I share this sort of obituary picture, it would not be my style, but how I love that it was theirs.   
Legacy is a heady, serious thing to ponder.  Living one's Best Life each day...perhaps a little less so.  Tossing a little Fun in there obviously goes a long way.  I like that idea.  Always have.
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