Connections:Trendspeak

I’m proud of being a stick-in-the-mud where American English is concerned

    That said, he hopes to grow the economy from day one. At the end of the day, it’s gaining traction and — going forward — some people will be pleased. Others? Not so much.

    The paragraph above contains seven of the many jargon-y turns of phrase that get my dander up. I’m proud of being a stick-in-the-mud where American English is concerned. I’m not entirely sure what my problem is, but I simply loathe trendy, overused words and phrases.

    Who is responsible for the fact that the trendspeak verb “to gift” has been replacing “to give,” in relation to gifts and free loot? As in: “The Academy gifted nominees with expensive bags of swag” (another annoyingly overused word, pronounced, also annoyingly, as  “shwag” for reasons I cannot understand).

    I remember being surprised and slightly irritated back in the 1990s, when President Bill Clinton used the phrase  “grow the economy.” Couldn’t he have just said  “improve the economy” or “help the economy grow”?

    Perhaps not coincidentally, I think Hillary Clinton was the first person I heard talk about the amazing things she would do on “day one” of her hoped-for presidency. That’s a lot more succinct than saying “on the first day in office,”  granted, but I don’t like it anyway.

    Who is responsible for spreading these words and phrases among us? I have to blame television for interjecting them into spoken, and then written, language. First we heard them among news-hour pundits, then among reality-television contestants, and now we hear and read them every day.

    Now, I have to admit, it is clear that I myself am perfectly willing to use phrases that are honest-to-goodness clichés . . . as long as they’ve been around a long time.

    According to a Yahoo site called Voices, the first reference to “get your dander up” (see above) can be found in an April 1853 edition of The Wisconsin Tribune: “ ‘Well, gosh-all Jerusalem, what of it now?’ yelled the downeaster, getting his dandruff up.” It is also reported that Samuel Goldwyn, of Hollywood studio fame, has sometimes been credited with inaugurating the phrase, but he wasn’t born until 1897.

    The origins of the noun stick-in-the-mud are a little obscure, in part because the phrase has two meanings. Way back in the early 18th century, I’m told, a stick-in-the-mud was someone who wouldn’t or couldn’t get out of an abject condition. More recently, it means a person who avoids new activities, ideas, or attitudes — an old fogy.

    Well. While I don’t mind thinking of myself as a curmudgeon, I draw the line at “fogy.” I declare here that I positively enjoy new, trendy words and phrases when they serve to make the language more specific or more colorful (instead of duller and more generic).

    Did you read that the 2013 Oxford English Dictionary word of the year — a category that has included 2011’s  “truthiness,” 2009’s “app,” and 2003’s  “metrosexual” — was the humble “because,” when used to introduce a single noun or adjective?

    Why do I hate homogenizing trendspeak so? Because reasons.