There’s no two ways about it: We are numb to Language.
You see it every day. It’s a hyperbolic sentence, posted on Facebook or Twitter, texted, or Skyped. Quite often, these hollow statements are packed full of redundancies, misused words, and superfluous capitalization. For good measure, a multitude of exclamation points and a combination of punctuation marks that mimics an obscure smile—if you tilt your head to the left—have been thrown into the fold.
Plastering on words and making a gilded sentence is an attempt to drive home a point that could have been better constructed without the fluff. Yet, these additions have transformed from a malignant tumor into something of an appendix, perhaps even a vital organ, in our eyes. Because these words are everywhere we look, we’re made to believe they’re necessary for maintaining the integrity of what’s being conveyed.
These days, I completely agree. A big pet peeve of my father’s is when people refer to anything other than God as amazing. When I was young, I thought it odd he found something like that annoying, but I have nonetheless monitored its use over the years. Today, people seem to use words like amazing, love, and hate at a much higher frequency. with my dad. We must reserve these words for special occasions, lest they lose their intrinsic significance in the wake of the monotony. For if a haircut is amazing, what is God? Amazing squared? With four exclamation points instead of three?
The same horrifying trend is happening in the area of “no-no” words. We are fast becoming a swearless society because these words are embedded into colloquial English. “Ride Wit Me” by Nelly is a perfect example. Every other word in the final two minutes of his song is bleeped out on the radio. All we understand is that he is saying things worthy of a mouth full of soap because we have no context, unless we have heard the explicit version.
The explicit version is more troubling because, while it does convey something, the swearing is casual, which dilutes the swear words. If a swear word is to remain as such, it cannot be used casually.
Don’t get me wrong. Cussing is a good thing. As a writer, I need swears when I cannot portray anger or surprise or a different emotion adequately through other outlets alone. Rarely do I use swears in my stories, however, because I believe they make a much grander entrance when “routine” words precede and follow them. A swear word should be that one little pebble stuck inside your shoe, constantly letting you know its there every time you plant your foot.
We no longer take the time, in part because we feel we no longer have the time, to use the right words for the job. If we try, we risk running out of the small amount of allotted characters on our phones or Twitter boxes. I issue you this challenge: before you write anything, take a deep breath and ask yourself what it is you would like to say, and when you finish writing, take some time to remove the exaggerations and redundancies.