Oh December! In earlier chapters of my life this month nearly killed me – quite literally – on so many occasions that I became physically sick with dread of its arrival every year. These days I’m just a kid sickeningly giddy from sugar overload, too infatuated with the rituals I love – Adventskalender, hot cocoa snuggles, fuzzy hat wearing, Glühwein drinking, snowy wandering – to get caught up in the little things that send people careening over the edge of holiday hill. Nothing breaks through my seasonal shield of sparkles and sunshine. Nothing, save for maybe the infamous end-of-year proclamations of all the things we’re meant not to do next year, particularly the words we’re ordered to abolish from our collective vocabulary, never to utter aloud again, less you be struck down by the evil eye of Noah Webster or worse, shunned by your grammatically überrighteous frenemies.
You might guess the reason I loathe these lists. After reading them, I inevitably find myself casually tossing the verboten words into every conversation salad, igniting a hot flush of embarrassment seconds after they cross my lips. And then I’m so flummoxed at how I managed to work “bae” and “selfie” into a discussion about change management, I have to recuse myself from intelligent conversation altogether. The same thing happens when I learn cheeky words in German; I somehow say them in all the worst situations (in my defense, it’s usually when they sound similar to the word I really mean). If you’re into behavioral science (or a German film buff), you of course recognize this seemingly sudden speech infiltration as frequency illusion or Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. I digress, as I’m half an Arschkalt in and not fit to openly ponder cognitive biases (yes, that’s all it takes doll).
Anywho, (yup, I know), as I was listening to The Vespers, the idea occurred to me to make my own list of no-no words. The difference with my list is I’m going to excuse myself for saying these words, and maybe, by acknowledging how pervasive they’ve become in my daily droning, I’ll naturally find replacements. It’s akin to the theory that if you own your inner “dark side” and forgive yourself all your personal flaws, you’re able to see everyone else in a gentler light, and more open to building a positive community. Makes total sense, right? So, giddyup cowgals and guys, let’s wrangle some wicked words.
5 Words to Stop Saying in 2015
5. Dickwad: When I polled a few people about things I say way too often, someone actually credited me with creating this word. I didn’t, and it seems it was popularized during a certain Republican’s presidency. In light of the above mentioned effort to more benevolently embrace everyone I encounter, I should drop this one like ton of bricks. In any case, imbecile is far more effective at conveying the same sentiment, and sounds more Shades of Grey than Secaucus slang. (Confession: I’ve not read that book and know next to nothing about its subject matter, but I have been to Jersey, likely where I collected that delightful slur.)
4. Disruptive: I had a TA for a writing intensive course in university who took great delight in scrawling insults in the margins of my management memos about how I thought I was so fancy with my vocabulary but no one was ever going to listen to me. At first I wanted to explain to him what a pompous prick he was (via blunt force from a thesaurus), but I realized he was totally correct in his point, if not his insolent approach. Because of this, I’d say I’m generally careful to not fall into the jargon du jour trap and dish pretty straight talk, but disruptive proved too sweet a temptation. When so many things seem circular and you feel an overall dullness in life, disruption seems just the right prescription. Isn’t there a tiny piece of all of us that occasionally secretly craves a bit of mayhem to break the shackles of ordinary? No, you say? Ahem, Entschuldigung.
3. Slut: I’m including this not because I say it, but for a certain someone who bandies it about it as often as I do For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Without launching deep into a feminist rant, the word is nothing more than a device to shame women for even slightly stepping out of antiquated and puritanical confines of conformity. If you ever use this in reference to yourself, or accept others labeling you with this asinine term, STOP. Your boudoir action needn’t define you. Just know that if you’re blatantly disregarding modern protections and blasting out your conquests to everyone with ears, it’s considered an open invitation for severe verbal lashings (not from me, ‘cause you know the silent treatment is my arme préférée). You may as well call up the Hoarders crew and then bawl when they rip on the family of sixty rats you’re allowing to run roughshod all over your den.
2. Fuck: Yup, the queen-mother of dirty words I once swore I’d never say now flies out of my mouth like monkeys in Oz. If you saw me any time between June and August this year, you no doubt believed I had experienced an epiphany that fuck could be used as every part of speech. In fact, I used to chastise any and everybody who dared let it fly in front of me. “Only ignorant people use that word because they are not intelligent enough to think of something proper to say.” The thing is, I’ve come to appreciate fuck is much like ouch, an exclamatory interjection for which there are few fitting substitutes. Sure, I say “fidget” in front of the kiddos, but saying “don’t flip with me, you flipping flip” to a smarmy guy who beckons to me with “hey little girl” doesn’t exactly have the same silencing effect. The use I have not adopted however, is its application as a superlative, as in #williamsburgasfuck, because I’m just not that…
1. Awesome: A review of gChat (Hangouts, whatever) illuminated this oft-volleyed gem (with fab/fabulous close behind). Truth is, I’m not going to even try to stop saying it. You know why? Because I’m in sprinkles and rainbows mode people, and I’ve rocked umpteen astounding adventures in the past 12 months alone. Though I’ll deny it publicly, I sometimes get sidelined in Sadtown, and for as trite as the word may seem, merely whispering “let’s do something aaaawwwesome” keeps me from wallowing in whiskey and self-pity. Hey, at least I’m not saying amazing.
How about you? Is there a word habit you’re trying to kick or are you an avid devotee of the banned word lists each year?
Finally, lest you think I’m obliviously cruising along in a festive libation-induced haze, I leave you with this timely and comforting advice from The Vespers: We’ve gotta take care of each other.