Friday, September 21, 2012

Dead Words

The following words have been officially proclaimed as dead: "stuff," "think," "nice, "fun," "good" and "great."

This news comes to me from my youngest daughter Leelee and her fifth grade class. Her teacher has posted them on the wall of the classroom in an attempt to have her students use more exact language in their speaking and writing. I applaud this.

These are the tired, bland, polite, lifeless words that most kids and far too many adults use in writing, conversations and communicating with each other. Our messages would be more clear and precise if we never used these ever again. Catch yourself ... listen as you speak and look as you proof your writing. Are you keeping these tepid, powerless words alive as verbal zombies?  We are now going to be word killers.

"Stuff." - We all have too much stuff. Yet, the word doesn't describe anything we own.   If you want an accurate examination of this, enjoy this clip of George Carlin. He makes the point about our slavery to items we own. Let's put this word out of our misery! (DISCLAIMER: This is a classical Carlin clip, so he does use great language and drop in a few swear words to keep it salty.  If you are sensitive about this, don't watch it - just keep reading.) 

"Think" - I know that "think" needs to be sent a early grave. Too many people begin any information they share with these two words: "I think."  When giving an opinion, out will pop the cousin of I think, "I feel."  Why not jump right in to your reasons?  Do our opinions need a running start to get up to speed?  Do we need to tell the world that ideas were first in our brains, and then came from our mouth?  Using this dramatically waters down our ideas and insights. Share them direct. We know you can think.

"Nice." - My skin is crawling. The word "nice" tends to be used in rather a wishy-washy sense these days. In general use it tends to mean anything that is satisfactory, but not too strong ... since we don't want to over commit or hurt someone's feelings if they feel differently.  Sit near any playground and you will hear a maternal voice over the din of the kids calling out at some point, "PLAY NICE!"  Let's grab a stake, stab it in the heart and kill this one now!

"Fun" is done. Again, another bland excuse to hold back how we really feel. If something is truly fun, take us on the journey. Give your communications the full power of what happened.  Let us know the full range and then we can determine if your your level of enjoyment. "Fun" is done, in my book.

The twins "Good" and "Great" are last on the list. Good is a tepid endorsement at best. Upon hearing the word good, we want to know the down side. Why wasn't it great?  "Great" suffers from  a lack of specifics. If I tell you that it was "Great," the question "Why?" isn't far behind. "Great"  works for animated tigers promoting breakfast cereal. Take the buffer out of your sentence and tell us that it was the most delicious meal you can recall, a truly memorable vacation, the wisest investment you ever made or your professional recommendation.  Maybe we can kill these two with a bank shot?

You have better words, thoughts and insights inside you - I know it! Take the time to post these words at your desk. As you proof your writing or collect your thoughts, take the time to move past these words.  Lets call them dead and buried. Rest In Peace!

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