More Words I Hate

It surprises me that the most popular blog post I ever wrote, according to Google Analytics, was the one I wrote on the topic of words that I hate.   I’m not sure if that’s because people are generally interested in words or hatred, but either way, I suppose it makes a delicious and perhaps relatable combination.

The word that has bugged me most these days continues to be “issues.”   I am hearing it more frequently than ever, apparently catching on I suspect because it is a convenient way of trying to approach a sensitive topic without offending anyone.   People are increasingly trying not to offend anyone these days, which, I think is a bit offensive unto itself.  I do appreciate and respect politeness; it makes this occasionally cruel world a considerably more tolerable place in which to live, but I have difficulty with indirectness, a subtle line indeed but ever so important.

I despise the word “issues” so much that I occasionally find myself considering publishing a magazine called “Mental,” just so I could hand a couple of copies over to someone and tell them that they now have Mental issues.

As I have written before, I also have mental issues with the phrase “Have a good one,” although I am pleased to say that it appears to be going through a slight decrease in usage.  That is really a good thing, because I eventually did get tired of what I thought were witty retorts that completely flew by the recipient, only validating the absolute lack of authenticity on the part of the original speaker.   No, they didn’t really want me to have a good anything, they just wanted to get to the next person waiting at the register.

“Communication” certainly makes the top ten list.   It’s a good word when applied to diseases, but when someone tells me that he’s discovered that his marital problems were due to lack of communication I immediately think that what he’s really telling me is that he has no idea what his marital problems were due to.   Are you telling me you don’t understand your partner?   That she doesn’t understand you?   That you are lonely because you aren’t able to identify your needs and find a way to get them met?

“Oftentimes” really bugs me, although it is as legitimate a word as any.   I hear it often, but I can’t understand why so many people insist on saying it rather than merely saying often.   It saves a whole syllable, and means the same thing.   Doesn’t “often” really imply “times”? I can’t help but think that people who say “oftentimes” instead of “often” have something they are trying to prove, as if they are trying to sound smarter than they are.   If you’re trying to sound smarter, just say “frequently,” or better yet, “habitually” if its relevant, or even better yet, just don’t say it all and substitute the whole sentence for a better idea.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression here—I truly do appreciate when people attempt to speak or write English.   Even though it may be their native language, it’s a really difficult one.   And I don’t want to sound sanctimonious—the fact is that I screw it up all the time.   I am as hard on myself as I am on others, occasionally flashing images of shooting myself when I discover my own grammatical flaws. I so envy Jan Morris—one of my favorite writers—who claims she never corrects anyone else’s literary or grammatical mistakes or cares so much even when they make them.  Was she born that way, I wonder, and if not, what price must she have had to pay for such enviable lack of judgment?

As always, I appreciate your comments in the space below, but just don’t tell me you have issues with anything I say.   If you do, I don’t want to hear it.   And if you oftentimes have communication difficulties, I would respectfully request that you dig a little deeper. If, on the other hand, you would like to share words that drive you to the brink of senselessness, please do so.   I am running out of enemies.






lessonIf you become a pilot you will be greeted with poetic terms such as “unusual attitudes” and “going missed.”   “Holding patterns” is pleasingly romantic, while “death spiral” could easily be a feature film title.   One term of which I have always been particularly fond is “angle of attack,” perhaps because I used to fence in college and the term, which is a key concept in aviation, has both martial and mathematical bits, and it’s alliterative to boot!

The goal in landing an airplane is to fly a “stabilized approach.”   Failing to do so often results in a “missed approach,” which is redolent of my entire adolescence, although words such as “awkward,” “clumsy,” “incompetent,” and “hopeless” could apply equally to teenage and airplane approaches.   The best I could manage in those awkward, clumsy, incompetent years as an adolescent was an occasional “touch and go.”  How life does imitate art.

When pilots fly “deadstick,” they have lost their engine power.   It’s a bit of a misnomer, in that the actual stick is alive and well– it just has no power behind it, but you really can’t beat the word for its rather perfect sexual connotation.   Conscientious pilots practice “deadstick landings,” which sadly describes some of my own geriatric tribulations.

And, just to get past the suggestive bits, when learning to fly on instruments pilots are taught the proper procedure for “entering holds.” I imagine that is also something pilots have in common with wrestlers.

While it isn’t required, the best among us get “spin and stall training,” which would have helped me once years ago when I stalled in front of more than a hundred people while giving a presentation at a psychology conference. It was difficult to recall in which order I needed to reduce power, slam on the rudder and level my ailerons.

We learn not to “scud run” and aviation lore tells us about “barnstormers.” I’m not exactly sure what a “barnstorm” is, but it sure sounds awesome. Somehow I imagine a bunch of drunken, squaredancing cowboys in too-tight boots and cowgirls in fripperies frenetically whooping it up on a Saturday night.

Speaking of cowboys, pilots learn how to lasso, but we spell it LAHSO, which stands for “land and hold short operations.” This could be the title of a chapter in the Kama Sutra, or something you wished your father had told you about. Pilots land with a flare, not just because it’s pretty, but also because it increases drag.   Too much flare, I imagine, can turn you into a drag queen, potentially resulting in a tail strike.

Most pilots speak French, although they often don’t know it.   “Mayday” is merely the Anglicization of venez m’aider (come help me) or simply m’aidez (better get off your ass and help me now), and pan-pan (the urgency call) is simply the French word for bread.   No, wait, that’s Spanish. It’s actually the French word for “breakdown,” as in “you’re really a pannes in the neck.”

When you fly an airplane, you are controlling three things: pitch, roll, and yaw.   I can’t help wonder if Bill Haley or one of the other Comets took flying lessons thus inspiring the classic song “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”   The latter might, on second thought, be a better description of flying through turbulence.

“Dead Reckoning” is not what a jury does when considering the consequences of an accused’s misbehavior, but rather a shorthand derived from “deductive reckoning,” a form of navigation based on computing timing between visual cues.   Both, however, may have a similar result. (Full disclosure: some historians believe “dead reckoning” stems from following straight roads, as in “dead ahead.”)

I love practicing “accelerated stalls,” which, although it sounds like a contradiction, can happen if you rotate too much on takeoff.   I think it is also the process behind stuttering.

Enough already.  Before I get behind the airplane and lose control, I should quit today’s aerolinguistics lesson.   Don’t know about you, but I need to pitch, roll and yaw my way out of bed, take a shower and go to the scale and compute my load factor.   Hopefully, there won’t be too much turbulence ahead.