The English Language is a remarkable thing especially as it has evolved since the dawn of social media and the demise of traditional Journalism – two events that have moved in tandem over the past twenty years or so.
Journalism of the last Century at least paid homage to something that used to be called Fair and Balanced Reporting which was more or less clearly delineated from what were identified as Opinion Pieces and Editorial Commentary.
Social media enjoyed a brief honeymoon at its inception during which it served as a means of expanding communications between individuals and entities across the globe.
Almost immediately and with disastrous results social media plunged into a chaotic platform for enabling expression of anonymous hatred, dissemination of false information, and the growth of a phenomenally wealthy technocrat hierarchy of individuals with enormous leverage to shape public opinion and indeed reshape the World’s economies and international relationships.
While this revolution was occurring it became a necessity for Journalism to find some kind of synergy with social media so as to maintain its solvency and relevance.
One of the paths chosen was to use words and phrases intended to grab readers’ attention and hopefully convince them that ‘Story X’ contained ‘Must Read’ content.
The result has been usage of a number of words which have in cases been created out of whole cloth or given new meanings in ways so as to make them virtually meaningless, weaponized so as to support ideological biases, and overused to the point of rendering them cliches if not downright stupid.
This Essay makes the argument that a number of these should be either done away with entirely or if retained, ‘reverse reengineered’ to regain meaning and validity of use in public discourse.
(Note: All Definitions were obtained from a Dictionary that has an English name, so you know they’re good.)
A thing of great power or size, in particular a movie, book, or other product that is a great commercial success.
The word first appeared in the pages of TIME in a Nov. 29, 1942, article on the Allied bombing of key industrial targets in fascist Italy; the bombs used for such missions were called blockbusters because of their ability to destroy an entire city block.
This term evolved into multiple categories of misuse. It’s highly unlikely you will NOT see this term used innumerable times daily and in contexts for which it’s usage is ridiculous.
It’s used today to anoint even the most pedestrian of events and statements as being of enormous significance demanding attention and formulation of opinions on things which would otherwise be not only ‘un-newsworthy’ but laughable.
For one, has ANY Politician ever uttered a word recently (or in the past fifty years of his or her public or private life) which is NOT being presented to us as being a Blockbuster?
(Example: ‘Blockbuster – Bill Clinton now claims he never even BREATHED in College.’)
For another, does the public announcement of ANY A, B, or C- List celebrity’s sexual preference(s) REALLY constitute a Blockbuster?
(Example: ‘ Blockbuster – RuPaul Admits to Being a Guy’).
Is the decision to rename a public street or thoroughfare a Blockbuster event?
(Example: ‘Blockbuster – Satan Street Renamed Beelzebub Avenue’)
It seems we’ve reached the point where everything is considered a Blockbuster. And when we’ve reached that point, is anything really a Blockbuster?
Verdict: Let’s redefine the term Blockbuster to: (noun) Something with the capability to destroy a city block.
1) An overwhelming surprise or disappointment
2) A very attractive woman
3) An artillery shell
As with the term Blockbuster, almost every headline now refers to whatever is being reported as a Bombshell, with the possible exception of artillery shells which are seldom featured in headlines. And if ever actually used to describe a very attractive woman in today’s social climate, the user of the term would likely be castigated as a sexist pig and castrated. (Probably not worth it)
Nonetheless, it is possible to envision a very specific happenstance where this term might be used to accurately reflect all possible definitions.
To wit, Ms. Twaddle, considered by many to be an attractive woman, wanders unknowingly onto an artillery Practice Range and is obliterated by a falling shell.
Headline: ‘Bombshell Falls on Bombshell. Many are Surprised …. or Disappointed
But enough with the Bombshells already! It’s usage has rendered it trite in the extreme and in any case redundant in the sense that headlines these days are pretty much always surprising and disappointing.
Verdict: Let’s limit the definition of Bombshell to ‘An artillery shell’.
A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.
(Adjective): Having or involving authoritative knowledge.
This is perhaps the most overused word in the English language today.
It used to be this term brought to mind an individual of somewhat advanced aged wearing a cap and gown with a purple sash giving a University Commencement Speech; or perhaps a picture of someone with a lot of glass tubes and beakers in the background.
Today, everyone ever quoted by anyone in the media is described as an ‘Expert’ – even in Fields so new that it would be impossible to develop real expertise.
Example: ‘ Person ‘X’, an EXPERT in the Field of Social Distancing, said….’.
Who even HEARD of Social Distancing before the Pandemic??? And yet somehow we managed to instantaneously create Experts whose pronouncements MUST be taken with the respect formerly given to the likes of Albert Einstein or his brother Murray.
In the case of Social Distancing, ‘expertise’ seems to be accumulated through tests that determine the number of feet we should distance ourselves from others based on calculating how far sputum travels after coughing.
Quite likely every guy already knows the answer to this through participation in Spitting Contests during childhood. Women also know this through being the target of Male siblings practicing for Spitting Contests.
And as we all know, a well formed loogee travels a heck of a lot further than mere debris expelled from a cough.
So who needs ‘Experts’ in Social Distancing? Just stand a little further away than spitting distance and you’ll be fine.
Secondly, why is necessary to describe everyone being quoted as an Expert, regardless of the subject matter?
Example: ‘Person ‘X’, an EXPERT in child abuse, said…’
Where do you suppose this Expert obtained his or her ‘Expertise’? The imagination runs wild.
Let’s quit using term Expert entirely and replace it with an admittedly more verbose but more accurate descriptor such as ‘Person X, considered by many to be a biased know it all, said….”
- A story from ancient times about people and events, that may or may not be true
- A very famous person, especially in a particular field, who is admired by other people
- The explanation of a map or diagram in a book
- A piece of writing on a sign, a label, a coin, etc..
Woooweee! For purposes of this discussion let’s ignore definitions 3 and 4 right away. Why? Because they make too much sense.
However, 1 and 2 are worth a look.
I like how Definition 1 (the one that might refer to Paul Bunyan and Bob the Blue Ox) is qualified by the phrase “that may or not be true”. In the case of the Legend of Paul Bunyan and Bob the Blue Ox it’s readily obvious that the part of the legend about Bob the Blue Ox is most definitely not true.
THE OX’S NAME WAS BABE!!!
Definition 2 is where in today’s linguistic environment we run into trouble.
For one, being ‘very famous’ today is most definitely NOT a requirement for being referred to as a Legend. I mean, when I read something like ‘Ralph Schlatts, a Legend in the Field of Tropical Sewage Treatment’ I go, like, ‘Whoa! I didn’t know Tropical Sewage Treatment was a Field where Legends are made. And, as far as I know, Ralph Schlatts is the only person in that Field who has ever been named a Legend.’
So with so many Legends being named in so many Fields today, one hardly needs to be considered a very famous person to qualify as a Legend.
Next is the qualifier ‘who is admired by other people’.
What the heck does that mean?
Ted Bundy was certainly a very famous person in the Field of psychopathic mass murder and may well be admired by others working in that Field, but does that make him a Legend? I think not so much.
Verdict: Use of the word Legend should be restricted to Definitions 3 and 4 described above unless referring to the Baseball guy who hit the most Home Runs. Like, ever.
Not supported by good reason or facts.
How many times have you read or heard the word ‘baseless’ used as a modifier for what some hack writer, uber wealthy media mogul, Liberal news reader or self absorbed so called celebrity, has judged someone else’s opinion, perception, or belief? Answer: A lot.
First, some history.
The term ‘baseless’ first came into the lexicon in the 1800’s when Abner Doubleday was working on creating the Rules of Baseball. This was a work in progress back then.
The first version of the game involved a guy throwing a ball stuffed with poultry ( The Chicken Chucker) at another guy with a stick (The Sticker). Once the poultry stuffed ball was struck, the Sticker would drop the stick and run like hell. At this point in time there were no Bases defined in the Rules of Baseball which means the game pretty much ended when the Sticker ran out of sight.
For that reason people quickly became disenchanted with what was referred to as Baseless Baseball. Thankfully, Abner stumbled on the idea of creating Bases to reroute the Sticker, who also was renamed the Batter after which, if he did hit the poultry stuffed ball (which also evolved into a more humane substance filled sphere thrown by a Pitcher) he became known as the Runner. And thus the game ultimately evolved into the National pastime.
Sorry. Had to get that out of my system. Just thought you might want to know.
Back to usage of the word baseless today. As alluded to above, baseless is now almost universally used to discredit another’s view of reality if said view is not in agreement with the hack writer, mogul, Liberal news reader, so called celebrity’s view.
Baseless is ALWAYS used in reference to some Politician’s position on something. And as we all know Politicians will say or do ANYTHING whether supported by good reason or facts to get elected or remain in Office. Ergo, modifying something a Politician says or claims by preceding it with the term baseless is totally unnecessary. You know. Rhetorical.
Verdict: Substitute the word Baseless with BS. Everybody knows BS when they see it. And we can get back to using Baseless with its true Historical reference to good old Abner.
1. Reaching a high or the highest degree; very great
2. Furthest from a given point; outermost
Dealing with Definition 2 first, no problem there. I’ve learned over time that words used to describe earthly geographic characteristics or those of the Universe shouldn’t be messed with.
When it comes to Definition 1 it feels like I’ve been watching Political Commercials 24/7 lately. That’s a factor of (a) my being retired and having absolutely nothing else to occupy my time and (b) they’re ALL that’s on TV including Cable Channels for which I’m actually paying EXTRA to watch!
As a result I’ve realized two things:
1- Being called Extreme by a Political opponent is not good enough. To add emphasis, the modifier ‘Too’ is always added to the label, as in “so and so is TOO Extreme”. There isn’t a single candidate who’s not Too Extreme.
2- There is not a word that describes a Candidate who is not described as Not Too Extreme (I love using triple negatives. Really screws with your head. :-))
The intent of calling someone Too Extreme of course is to infer that another Candidate’s Political position(s) are evil if not downright Satanic and which, if one votes for that Candidate, will condemn the voter to Perdition – all because of a lousy (yet Sacred of course) vote.
However, once again we face a conundrum where if everyone running for Office is Too Extreme we are forced to vote for someone who is Too Extreme. Which means we’re all going to hell if we vote!
Every Political ad in which someone is accused of being Too Extreme should be required to include a reference to the accuser as being Not Too Extreme.
This is actually a Catch 22 thing if we look back at Definition 1 of Extreme (i.e. Reaching a high or the highest degree; very great.)
I mean, if being Too Extreme implies a level where one has exceeded even the highest degree of Extreme why on earth would you vote for someone with lesser Not Too Extreme credentials???
I hope you find the above useful. And if you found yourself snoozing off while reading, don’t feel bad. Naps are good! Just ask a retiree.