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.