Close the kimono…that’s messed up!

January 13, 2015

While I generally await the annual Word of the Year announcements from Oxford Dictionaries (“vape“), Merriam Webster (“culture“) and (“exposure“) with eagerness, I have to say this year’s crop was pretty lame. I’m OK with “vape” — it’s new, useful and immediately graspable. Granted, it’s no “selfie” but not every new word can aspire to selfiehood.

But consider that Oxford’s runner up was ‘bae’ — a term apparently known only to community college students and even they find it too embarrassing to use without major smirking. And “normcore” — what were you…trippin’?

On the plus side, this gives us an opportunity to recall (in the sense of a GM vehicle or passenger airbag) certain words and phrases and put them out of their misery.


Using the power vested in me by the Word Police Academy, I hereby declare a moratorium on the following terms that have either outlived their usefulness or never had any cojones to start with:

“How’s everything tasting?” has become a standard inquiry at restaurants. Would you ask someone “How’s that beer tasting?” or “How are those tater tots tasting?”

“That’s messed up.” C’mon, if you’re going to make a bold declaration of something terrible that happened, you don’t use terminology more suited to a disorderly jigsaw puzzle. Say the damn word you really mean.

“Mainstream media.” Unfortunately, while this can be used to make a useful distinction between, say, The New York Times and, say, this blog, it seems to have been hijacked by nutjobs, conspiracy mongers and people with an axe to grind about “news they don’t want you to hear!”

“Allopathic.” This joins “alternative medicine” (which even the Big Alt Med and Big Alt Supplement folks have now buried in favor of “integrative” in recognition of the fact that there is no alternative science; it’s either science or not). Problem with “allopathic” is that it’s a made-up category, a whimpering mangy dog of a nonsense term devised by homeopaths to try to get a few scraps off the table of legitimate medicine.

“Full disclosure.” Nice try, but it’s not really an open kimono. We know you want to disclose a certain vested interest or connection you have with the subject you’re reporting on. But rarely is this used by authors or reporters in the sense of “We’re telling everything.” Let’s leave some teeth in the term for when we need it. Otherwise, just say “Disclosure” and tell how your Uncle Festus owns the wine bar you’re recommending.

and speaking of wine bars…

“Notes of toasted vanilla,” “forward fruit aromas,” “integrated components”…but don’t get me started on this.*

“Reach out” — great for phone companies and social agencies trying to get in touch with some amorphous audience with no single address. But we don’t need it for “I think I’ll reach out to Joe for his input on this.” “Reach out” should be reserved for times when some kind of large-scale effort is called for to find otherwise unfindable needy souls.

“Hydrate” — really, just get a damn drink of water! (see what I did there?)

“Mouth feel” — if there’s a substantial difference between “mouth feel” and “taste” I cannot discern it. (Disclosure: I’m mostly renowned for my “Fried Bologna Surprise” and “Paté de Spam Terrine” so almost anything I say about food should be disregarded.)

Post script: In the meantime, one of my fans points out that not only am I wrong, but I am disturbingly wrong about this item. OK, I know that “mouth feel” has a different meaning (among “cheffies” as the commentator points out without a hint of drollness) and I’m willing to concede the point. But I just don’t like “mouth feel.” Somehow “mouth feel” sounds like something a 4-year-old would invent before they discover that  “texture” pretty much gets the job done. But I’ll go along with “mouth feel” if you cheffies will give me “nose feel” to describe the complex tactile sensory impressions that go beyond simple “smell.” Thus: “This charming chardonnay has a buttery mouth feel complemented by a dense almost foggy marine layer nose feel.” Happy?

*actual wine menu terms

Bonus: “shared out” to indicate that not only are you sharing some information but you’re actually sharing it “out” to a larger group. (actual usage from a conference powerpoint presentation.)

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