Once, they took center stage to "oohs" and "ahhs." They stood for something. They had it all. But now, they make their appearance in a tagline or op-ed piece? And, well, we blush... we cringe for them... we have to avert our eyes.
I'm talking about those words overused to the point that, as a writer, I just can't face 'em anymore. Perfectly serviceable at one time, they are now tired and haggard, with nothing new to offer. Yet still, across the globe, they desperately struggle for impact.
They're those phrases that, just when I think they've had their final day, they resurrect themselves. They're the Britney Spears or Madonna of today's vocabulary....
Let's trot 'em out now, shall we?
- Outside-the-box. Everyone wants ideas that are "outside-the-box." This has gone on for about 20 years now. And you know what? I don't think there's anything left in the box anymore. The box has gotten rained on. The box is soggy and saggy. The box has structural problems. It's an old freakin' box. If this were one of our divas, it would be Nora Desmond or, say, Joan Collins. One who had her day, but there's no need to roll her out onto the stage at age 80 and have her play the vamp. It's time to move on.
- Drinking the Kool-Aid. Okay, so, fine, it's shorthand for political party-oriented brainwashing. And it doesn't matter what political group you're with, the phrase has a unique power. It's one that, the very moment it comes from the lips, it goes to the speaker's own ears. Forming a soft cottony-like barrier preventing any further sound to get through. It's like Tom Cruise, talking about psychotherapy to Matt Lauer. The lips move, but he can't hear what you're saying. That's why I think the Kool-Aid diva needs to stop jumping on the couch and take its freaky giant pitcher on outta here.... Oh yeah.
- Patented. If this word were just used in terms of, "Received a U.S. Patent" that would be fine. But like the sad case of Marilyn Monroe, advertisers have exploited "patented" beyond its original purpose. To snake oil salesmen, "patented" somehow now means "proven" or "approved by the government as legit." Where all it truly means is it's been certified that no one else has submitted this particular idea yet-- whether it would work, or blow Wile E. into coyote nuggets. So when you see "patented" on an infomercial, try to remember what it used to be like, when it was fresh, smart and dewy. Before it succumbed to the bright lights and drug culture.
- Drive-by Media. I know this is a Rush Limbaugh-ism. Fine. It served its purpose. But I feel like a good chunk of folks need reminding that, "You are not Rush Limbaugh." If a TV personality coins a phrase-- any phrase, any TV personality-- this doesn't automatically make you cooler or substantiate your argument by proxy. It just makes you unable to come up with your own way of expressing yourself. Please stop. It's like a Fred Willard character, quipping 70s TV catch phrases in 2009 when there's too much silence in the room. It's like saying, "Whatchu talking about, Willis?" four times during a sales meeting that's going badly.
- World-Class. Ah, so elite... so high-end... of such exquisite caliber that it is among just a few in the world. The problem is, in advertising this is now being applied to... oh... community colleges... health insurance plans.... dog food. I know the world seems to be getting smaller, but once "world-class" starts being applied to kibble, I think we need to reevaluate. This is the Reality TV show songstress-- any songstress-- who belts out one melodramatic ballad and for a whole 15-minutes, she's "the next Maria Callas."
- World Famous. As an off-shoot of "world class," I'd like to get "world famous" to rethink it's current career direction. I've seen small fish sandwich shops in the Florida Keys proclaim their "world famousness" of their fish. Every time, I picture the owner, wracking his brain for the sign out front, saying:
"Let's use 'world famous.' Didn't we have a guy from Hawaii come here once?"
The waitress shifts her cigarette to the other side of her mouth. "Hawaii's still the U.S., Ted."
"Yeah, but it's really far away. Let's go with 'world famous.'"
World famous is like being a performer on a Carnival Cruise... Yes, you've seen the world, but does anyone really know you outside of the guy in Cabin 2?
Well, those are my suggestions for the falling stars of vocabulary today. Let's give 'em a big round of applause.. (Psst!-- you in the wings, can you get that big hook please?... Yeah, thanks. It looked like they were trying for an encore.)
So tell me, gang-- what words would you prefer never to lay eyes on again?