Alan Rhodes

Egregious linguistic offenses

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Poughkeepsie, New York is of crucial importance to the preservation of civilization. This is, of course, because Poughkeepsie is the home of Marist College, which every December publishes the results of a poll that determines the most annoying word of the year. The 2017 winner, for the ninth year in a row, was “whatever.” This is the “whatever” muttered dismissively by a sullen co-worker after you’ve offered a correct substitution for his latest bit of misinformation. It’s the same “whatever” that is sighed with hyperbolic exasperation by an insufferable, eye-rolling teenager who’s just been told she must clean her room before going to the mall.

Having considerable fondness and respect for the English tongue, I’ve long been attuned to lexical outrages. For a time I was reduced to hand-wringing despair by the overuse of “awesome.” Everything was awesome. I finally had to start responding. One morning while I was having breakfast at Diamond Jim’s, the twenty-something guy sitting next to me at the counter exclaimed, “Man, these pancakes are awesome!” I, too, am extravagantly fond of Diamond Jim’s pancakes, but this was not the issue at hand. Remediation was required. “No,” I replied. “They are not. Machu Picchu is awesome. Wagner’s Ring Cycle is awesome. The great Serengeti animal migration is awesome. These pancakes are merely delicious.” The bemused fellow seemed disinclined to engage me in further exploration of the topic.

I am also irritated by the use of “no problem” as the standard response to every request made of clerks and waitpersons, usually in circumstances in which there is scant likelihood of any problem arising. Recently at a downtown espresso bar I ordered a Grande Americano.

“No problem,” the perky barista assured me.

This was my third or fourth “no problem” of the day and it was still early. I’m afraid that I snapped. “Really?” I enquired. “Thank God! I would have thought that ordering an Americano in an espresso bar would be a nearly insurmountable problem, a crisis that would have thrown this place into disarray as panicked employees frantically consulted their phones to find out what this arcane beverage might possibly be.”

She looked at me blankly for a moment, then shrugged and said, “Whatever.”

Yet another source of annoyance is the currently voguish overuse of “perfect.” This is also a favorite of waitpersons. When I am informed that my choice of balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing is perfect, I will typically respond by stating that I’m overjoyed that I picked the perfect dressing and will then go on to enquire as to which particular imperfections are to be found within the honey mustard or Italian dressings.

“Perfect” is not limited to the restaurant milieu. When I was having a dental checkup recently the hygienist found that everything I did was perfect. I closed my mouth over the little cardboard x-ray doodad perfectly. I opened wide perfectly. When I raised my tongue to the roof of my mouth as I was instructed, that too was perfect. I thought this might be more praise than I rightfully deserved. It would be, after all, pretty hard to mismanage the raising your tongue. I suppose that if I had stuck my tongue in my cheek, that would not have been perfect, or if I used my tongue to tie a knot in a maraschino cherry stem that, too, would fall short. This was one case, however, in which I did not verbally engage the other person. As pleasant as she was, she still had easy access to various sinister looking little metal probes that she could stab into my gums. I choose my battles wisely.

It’s impressive how many words and phrases are flying around out there that are either inherently annoying or have become so through overuse, such words as tweet, foodie, just sayin’, market solutions, at the end of the day, Kardashian, went viral, bucket list, parenting, gifting, journaling, hashtag, lifestyle, it is what it is, war on Christmas, it’s all good, endangered white male, collateral damage, job creators, artisan, hand-crafted, death tax, a-list, mani-pedi, trigger warning, safe space, play date, National Rifle Association, voter fraud, shopaholic, and Doug Ericksen. I could keep going but there are only so many offensive words that one can suffer through in a single sitting. Besides, I’m almost out of space. As a matter of fact, since I’m allowed a maximum of 750 words for a column, when I finish this sentence if I add just one more word I’ll be at exactly 750. Perfect!

Past Columns
The Lilliputian Gazette

November 20, 2019

Election Elucidations

October 15, 2019

Buying Sedro-Woolley

September 4, 2019

Rescued by Rachmaninoff

July 17, 2019

Hurrahs and Harangues

May 8, 2019

Ranting and Raving

March 6, 2019

Bellingham 2050

February 13, 2019

Looking Backward

January 2, 2019

Joy to the World

December 19, 2018

A Second Spring

October 3, 2018

Dog Days Deliberations

September 12, 2018

Mr. Cranky’s Files

July 11, 2018

Can We Talk?

June 20, 2018

Midnight Musings

May 16, 2018

April Fools

April 4, 2018

Rollo and Me

March 7, 2018

Events
Today
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

The Naughty List Market and Cabaret

2:00pm|Broadway Hall

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Connelly Creek Nature Area

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Holiday Craft Bazaar

3:30pm|Lynden Library

Drayton Harbor Shellebration

4:00pm|G Street Plaza

Gingerbread House Making

4:30pm|Ferndale Library

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Photos and Stories with James K. Papp

5:00pm|Gallery Pegasus

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Kids Night Out @ Western

6:00pm|Western Washington University

Lost Feast

7:00pm|Village Books

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Christmastime is Here with Skagit Symphony

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Tomorrow
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Shrek the Musical

7:00pm|Burlington-Edison High School

Treasure Island

7:00pm|Sehome High School Theater

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Toys for Tots

10:00am

Holiday Tea

11:00am|Willowbrook Manor

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Wonderland Walk

5:00pm|Washington Park

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Tarnation and Holiday Games

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Darkness and Light

7:30pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

NSEA Work Party

9:00am

Breakfast with Santa

9:00am|Sedro-Woolley Community Center

Winter Faire

10:00am|Whatcom Hills Waldorf School

Winter Arts & Crafts Festival

10:00am|Pioneer Park Pavilion

Old-Fashioned Christmas Market

10:00am|Friday Harbor Brickworks

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Fairhaven Winterfest

10:00am|Historic Fairhaven

Sumas Book Club

10:00am|Sumas Library

Mastering Wisteria

10:30am|Full Bloom Farm

Award-Winning Book Club

10:30am|Lynden Library

Snow Geese of Skagit

10:30am|Christianson's Nursery

Your Life is a Story Writers Group

10:30am| South Whatcom Library

Saltadena Celebration

11:00am|Saltadena Bakery

Winter Wonderland Gift Gala

11:00am|Carnation Building

Holiday Craft Bazaars

11:30am

Holiday Maker's Market

12:00pm|Terramar Brewing and Distilling

Holiday Joy with Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Holiday Tea and Crafts

1:00pm|North Fork Library

Festive Feasting Reception

1:00pm|Good Earth Pottery

Teen Art Fair

2:00pm|Blaine Library

Big Holiday reds tasting

2:00pm|eifert & Jones Wine Merchants

Shrinking the Worry Monster

2:00pm|Village Books

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

Bowman Bay Holiday

3:00pm|Bowman Bay

Noel Ensemble

3:00pm|Jansen Art Center

A Deep Dive Into Eve Deisher's Psyche

3:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

One Meditation

4:00pm| Boulevard Park

The Nativity

6:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Early Railroads of Whatcom County

7:00pm|Village Books

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Center Into Solstice

7:00pm|Cafe Blue

Holiday History Hi-Jinks

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Winter Solstice Concert with SeaMuse

7:30pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Cidertails with Alexine Langdon

7:30pm|housand Acre Cider House

Heralding Christmas with Skagit Valley Chorale

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

The Kelley World Tour

7:30pm|Lummi Island Library

Sunday
Holiday Pet Food Drive

10:00am|Whatcom County

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Giving Tree

9:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Number the Stars

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Crazy for You

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am| Sunset Square

Christmas on the Docks

5:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

Valley Made Holiday Market

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Honk! The Musical

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Narnia the Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Winter Wonderland Gift Gala

11:00am|Carnation Building

The Nativity

6:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Heralding Christmas with Skagit Valley Chorale

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Celtic Yuletide

3:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Scarlett and Dicey

4:00pm|Village Books

Vaudevillingham

7:00pm|Cirque Lab

see our complete calendar »