updated 14 Feb, 2021
Trigger alert: This particular post is mostly for word nerds . . . but feel free to jump in and ride along
“De-platform” — verb: to deny someone the ability to post on social media or more generally, remove someone ranting and orating on a stage or in a forum. Although the term is often set solid (no hyphen), I think the hyphen helps recognize that it’s not deplat. While there’s certainly controversy about whether this infringes on 1st Amendment free speech, the rise of misinformation, disinformation and just whacked out Q’formation makes this a useful thing to do
“De-fund the police” — this phrase is nothing but ammunition for Far Righters and Q-heads who think it means not paying for police departments. The folks who came up with it should be ashamed since it works against everything they really want, which is simply to “fund” or empower social agencies and personnel to work with situations that don’t call for military intervention: domestic squabbles, shoplifting, selling single cigarettes on the street, being attacked by Karens, etc.
“Cancel culture” — There’s nothing wrong with withdrawing support for a person or organization, or more directly, to boycott an organization deemed offensive. The term was maybe OK for one-time-use but has gotten wayyyy out of hand and is now just a way to whimper about not being invited to the party. Calling it a “culture” is simply dog-whistle* whining from people upset about their words being used against them. Now, doxing or trolling people you disagree with, on the other hand, is not taking away support–it’s attacking them.
This next one is officially “iffy” — as in, it’s OK for some situations.
“Drop” as in “to post” or publish or make publicly available. A band “drops” their new song or album on the Internet somewhere. Fine. But there are so many other meanings to the verb —drop acid, drop the book on the floor, drop over to see someone, give someone a drop of lemon, drop a dime on someone, drop your toxic relationship — that it doesn’t make sense to use it for any kind of new thing that has “just come out.” (There’s a nice discussion on this music forum.)
“Woke” – Although the word likely goes back to 2008 and picked up speed in 2014, meaning self-awareness of social injustice, especially racial tension, it really seems to have gained traction in 2016 and 2017 (when it was added to Merriam-Webster). But in the Language Team’s opinion, it just sounds goofy in practically any sentence structure. “He’s so woke!” “We need to get some woke people on this.” “I wish everyone was as woke as X about Y.”
And the in-betweens:
“Disrupt” — this started becoming annoying several years ago when an insurance company started dropping (ack!) web ads and chumboxes about how some MIT grads were disrupting the industry. The ads themselves were, at best disingenuous and misleading. The concept grew especially (IMHO) with the rise of Donald Trump who was seen as a sort of positive disrupter—someone who doesn’t pussyfoot (sorry!) around with small talk and bland “business as usual” practices that don’t get the job done. Instead, the disrupter actively short circuits programs that aren’t working. There are still very useful situations for the term — “The angry child disrupted their meeting with a tantrum” but when you see it being used in a marketing campaign, it’s probably just marketing drivel.
“Swipe left/swipe right” — to cancel or approve, depending on which way you swipe. Surprisingly, we hear it’s being used on dating websites or apps where there’s no actual swiping to be done.
“What’s the ‘ask’?” — Our team of linguists has mixed verdicts on this. On the one hand, saying “ask” instead of “request” is indeed shorter, and shorter is usually better. But on the other foot, it’s turning a simple, serviceable verb into a somewhat hard-to-distinguish noun (“ast”?) for no really good reason. “What are they asking for?” gets the job done without too much disruption to our ear drums.
“Mainstream media” (aka MSM) — this is a tricky one because the term does help us distinguish between source generally recognized as reputable such as NYT, WaPO, PBS, AP, BBC, et al, versus…well, versus what? Small, independent sources and local newspapers without a national audience? Or far-left and far-right sources that either clearly present their biases or hide them? In our view, the term was created, or popularized as a way of legitimizing “alternate” media, much like the term “allopathy” was invented by homeopathy to legitimize their field—that is, a term with no purpose other than to set a place at the table for some group.
So the problem with using the phrase is that it’s now almost totally used derogatorily, like “Well, if you listen to what the MSM is saying about…”. We are reminded of how disgraced political hack Rick Gates refers to “the media” as a sort of monolithic entity-person that simply does whatever it pleases.
Bring it back!
“Disinterested” — this term, meaning to be impartial or not having a stake or personal interest in the outcome, has had a long history of reversals. Like a lot of words in English – flirt, cute, awful, girl, naughty, nice —it has completely flipped over from historic use but has now settled into a perfectly useful meaning. Nevertheless, we are more and more hearing people use it simply to mean “not interested,” for which we have a perfectly good term already: uninterested.
A personal, local peeve
“Old Town” to describe downtown Scottsdale, Ariz. First off, the city called “The West’s Most Western Town” but really should be “The West’s Most Narrow Corridor,”* isn’t even among the state’s oldest cities and towns. And a casual bike ride through the downtown area shows that it’s mostly filled with fancy art galleries, upscale new restaurants and clubs, modern civic buildings and music venues in malls and parks. I think the problem comes from various neighborhoods not being able to figure out where their personal downtown is: Kierland (actually in Phoenix but uses a Scottsdale mailing address)? High Street? Shea & Scottsdale Rd? Fashion Square? Scottsdale Quarter? I actually had a friend once who told me that she and her girlfriend were going to go shopping “downtown”—but it turned out she meant AJ’s Fine Foods at Pinnacle Peak and Pima.
In the meantime, we are pleased to see that our new additions to the language are being enthusiastically adopted: SoSco (south Scottsdale) and NoSco (north Scottsdale). We have also heard that SoMo is now in play for South Mountain (aka Ahwatukee)