No one hears the screams as a language is mauled and murdered to the point of no longer being recognizable. Language is purely an expression of human beings, and as humans, we tend to destroy the things we touch – or in this case, the things we read, write and speak. Granted, one of the most beautiful things about language is the fact that it is malleable and dynamic. And yet, I can’t be the only one who has to think way too hard when having a conversation with a professor or when writing a paper.
It’s not just about speaking less casually; it’s about paying attention to those specific words that were once meaningful but have slowly become overused to a point of catching negative attention in a professional setting. For whatever reason, we haven’t yet reached the point of abandoning such words. We continue to use and abuse them, and we probably won’t be able to stop anytime soon.
We’ve reached the point at which we are simply beating a dead horse. If you say a word enough, it eventually loses all meaning. So perhaps we should hear those screams and let some words go. Because honestly, they have literally become fake words that, like, basically aren’t even cool anymore.
Literally. That one word is in fact a full sentence that I hear at least 50 times a day in conversation. Literally. It’s so difficult to express which things are real and which things aren’t anymore. Somehow, inexplicably, we’ve not only changed this word’s meaning, we’ve contorted it into its opposite. Just yesterday, my friend told me she was so upset about being waitlisted for a class that she was literally going to kill someone. And what did I say back? I said, “Relatable.” Was she actually planning to kill anyone? Probably not. But it’s less interesting to say, “I’m figuratively going to kill someone.” Avoid this word in all professional settings – it’ll literally be your downfall.
Fake. This word is a little more confusing because it has evolved within the past year itself. At first, it was just a way to discredit other people. “She’s so fake” or “What a faker” are two crowd favorites. Are those people actually fake? Will they say “made in China” if you turn them over? Probably not. But it makes us feel more real to call other people fake anyway. Recently, “fake” has been further belittled into the category of news media eye-catchers. Words like “fake” and “alt-” have little to no real meaning, but they’re scary when they appear in the news. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing those words would give up already.
Nice. Interesting. Cool. These may look like meaningful words, but don’t be fooled. What they really mean is, “I-want-to-express-that-I’m-paying-attention-but-I-don’t-actually-care-about-what’s-going-on.” They’re texting words, for those moments when you know they see your read receipt so you can’t completely ignore them, but you checked out of the conversation weeks ago. So, maybe we can keep these words around for those dire situations; but perhaps consult a thesaurus when talking to people in charge of your grades.
These are just a few examples of why it’s so difficult to communicate with anyone anywhere. Not only do we need to actively pay attention to the intelligence level we are presenting, but we also need to make sure we keep up with the changing standards of intelligence. So, next time you start a sentence, whether in paper, on text or out of your own mouth, think about whether that word you’re about to express is alive or dead. Chances are, if it’s dead, there is a new word waiting to be born. And it’s up to you in that moment to help deliver that new word.