‘When words fail’

by Vivian Lawson Hogue

Today’s conversational “crutches” remind me of words and phrases that were overused in the 1990s, particularly by people interviewed on TV or radio. You may remember the “you know’s” and “uh’s” that dotted every sentence in interviews. They were just a two-word phrase and a sound, but they served as fillers when real words ran and hid. It was, in fact, often difficult to perceive what was just said.

Generations since the early 1900s have coined words and phrases just to provide a casual air in the presence of hard times. They became known as “slang,” a word resuscitated from the Middle Ages.

These go beyond not knowing when to use “lay” and “lie,” which is a simple fix. Some are fads that somehow make the speaker feel confident. Here are some to think about.

Which is correct? “These are the right size” OR “These ONES are the right size.” 

Have you noticed the French word “Voila” is now everywhere? It means “There!” and is pronounced “vwah-lah.” I’m not sure how the French feel about that.

Here’s one that came South from the North via TV. “Kiddos.” It means children, whereas we might say “young’uns” down here. 

There is a difference between “lectern” and “podium.” You lecture from a lectern, a stand with a slanted top, and you stand ON a podium. 

A few years ago, I first heard the phrase “reach out.” A physical movement had become a catch phrase. It is used primarily in media or corporate-speak, instead of “get in touch with,” “talk to.” 

Grade school grammar lessons hopefully teach that a window never gets “busted,” but that it does get “broken,” “cracked” or “shattered.” 

One of my favorite phrases heard recently was a reference to “two twin brothers.” Oh, and “super” is back from somewhere in the 80s or so! In place of “very good” or “very much,” it is now a “super movie” or a “super, super easy recipe.” 

Have you noticed in recent history how corporations or government entities take things “very seriously?” And here’s a YouTube item. Someone in a cooking show often says, “Now what I’m gonna do next is I’m gonna stir the mixture.” 

Did someone think the word “veggies” was somehow more meaningful than “vegetables?” 

How about advertisements that say, “exotic perfumes, makeup AND MORE!” What is the “MORE?” 

A leftover 1990s California Valley Girl expression is “like.” Person #1: “How are you today?” Valley Girl (or guy): “I am like so excited! Like, I saw this, like, movie and it was, like, so cool!” Sentences usually end with the sound of a question mark. 

I could mention tons of other “conversation or expression enhancers.” But that’s another one. There are “tons of ideas,” “tons of things to do,” “tons of movies to watch.” 

We used to strive to know and effectively use the “King’s English,” meaning proper grammar and language. Man has been writing thousands of years and speaking intelligently since Adam said to Eve, “You did WHAT?” I’m thinking she didn’t have an adequately-stated answer, as things haven’t been the same since.

Vivian Lawson Hogue
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