Accidental Activist

Ten Words Ben Hates

Ben implodes the English language by juxtaposing business blather with suburban culture and segues from boondoggles to stupidites. You so shouldn't miss this.

By Ben Bull
Published February 15, 2006

I have something very important that I'd like to say - or rather, something very important I'd like not to say. You see, there's a subject I've been wanting to talk about for a long time but wasn't quite sure how to bring it up.

It's about words: words and phrases to be precise. You see I have this list of words that I've been writing in my journal. They are words that I hate – words that should never be used. Every time I hear a new one I go to my journal and jot it down.

And then I cross my fingers and hope I never see or hear it again.

Well, now my journal is full. Full of childish doodles and illegible scratchings mainly, but still full. So I thought this would be a good time to throw the book away and pass these words along to you. Maybe we could start a campaign or something - to get them removed from the dictionary? It's worth a try.

So please, allow me to present to you, from the darkest depths of my writer's journal, Ben's Top Ten list of Annoying Sords.

Implosion

I thought we'd start with a bang. Ho ho, that's a good one. Apparently Implosion is the opposite of Explosion. It means, "when something explodes inwardly" or something like that. My question is – why do we need this distinction? I mean, once something has blown up isn't that pretty much the end of it? Does it really matter whether it blew in or out? I think implosion is one of these words they just made up to make explosives experts sound intelligent and get more work.

"We'll make up a new word and then spend the rest of our lives using it, and correcting other people who use it incorrectly," they thought.

"And then, once people get the hang of it we'll invent another word. Or else change the meaning of this one."

That's what experts do. In fact that's all the experts are really – people who use words other people don't understand – right Ryan?

Implosion is a stupid word, it doesn't really mean anything and I vote we blast it right out of the dictionary.

Juxtaposition

Hey Ryan! How's it goin', man? How are the kiddies? Good? Great! Yeah I really liked that last piece you did, etc., etc. Okay, the buttering up is over: Ryan! Why do you use this word, man? You're killing me!

And don't pretend you never did, 'cos I saw you.

I was spying on that last piece you put in The Spec and there it was. It had your fingerprints [Newsprints? - Ed.] all over it. I got you bang to writes! (ho ho...no? Not clever?)

People (Ryan) should really try to avoid using scary words that Ben does not understand because, well, because Ben does not understand them. It's not that he's stupid it's just that they cause him to become very self-conscious and do strange things like write in the third person.

All words with five syllables should be banned if you ask me. I mean, what if you get it in Charades? You're screwed.

Juxtaposition: it's too long, I don't know what it means, I can't be bothered to look it up, and we should all stop using it. Thanks (Ryan).

Segue

This word is my own fault for joining the ranks of sleazy consultants and self-obsessed business people. People who walk around in expensive suits getting paid lots of money for writing reports and sounding important really deserve words like this.

Those of you who are "in business" will be familiar with the popular board room game known as "Bullshit Bingo". For the uninitiated, Bullshit Bingo involves writing out a list of very annoying business-seminar-type words, and then crossing them off each time the presenter uses them.

Once you've crossed them all off you shout, "Bullshit Bingo!" and the presenter scowls at you and you get fired. Segue is always on the Bullshit Bingo scorecard. And it always gets crossed off.

I vote we cross it off for good.

Vis-à-vis

Talking of crossing off words (Hey – wasn't that clever? The way I moved, seamlessly from one topic to another? Isn't there a word for that...?), vis-à-vis is a great candidate for the dictionary of lost words.

As a general rule, I think any word that causes your computer to put little accents over some of the letters should be banned. I mean, they're not even English.

I'm not French, so why would I talk French in the middle of an otherwise English sentence? It doesn't make any sense.

If I was giving somebody directions, would I suddenly shout, "Achtung! You eez going ze wrong way!"?

Of course not. That would scare them away.

French words do not belong in English sentences, they belong to French people. I vote we give this one back and stick to our own highly superior language. Comprende?

Touch Base

Hi Jase. Look man, when you want to go for a coffee or drag me around town on one of your 'Hamilton is on the rebound' tours of dilapidated neighbourhoods can you maybe fire me an invite without the words touch base in there?

You're not even a suit and tie bod, you're a bloody preacher or a pastor, or something, so why are you using words like this? Leave them on the Bullshit Bingo card where they belong. Thanks. And yep, 5 o'clock this evening should be fine. I'll bring my mitt.

Play Date

This phrase is the curse of my monotonous and soon-to-be-forgotten suburban fantasy. "Would Jack like to come for a Play Date this weekend?" said my son's friends Mum on the phone the other day.

When I asked her what the hell she was talking about she said something about her 'kids schedules' and Chucky Cheese and then more words I didn't understand.

Apparently she wanted to set up a date and time for her kid to play with my kid.

What's all that about? Apparently, when you live in the suburbs, you become so schedule-oriented and overly busy that the mere thought of just popping in unannounced at a friends house, or walking down the street and knocking on someone's door, is simply horrifying.

Holy crap – what if I'm on my way to hockey practice? Or just getting back from hockey practice? Or maybe planning the next hockey practice? (This is what people do in the suburbs right? Hockey practice? I can't think of anything else, I'm not very good at this suburb thing).

Play Dates are stupid. Playing is supposed to be spontaneous and carefree and fun. Appointments are not spontaneous or fun. Save the appointment book for the dentist, and send your kid round whenever you want.

Unless I'm at hockey practice, or washing my car, or buying a big screen TV... In fact, on second thoughts – maybe we should set something up?

You're welcome

I'm not sure if this is Canadian or American, but it definitely is stupid. At what point did everyone in North America become programmed to automatically respond to every "Thank You" with a ubiquitous, "You're Welcome"?

I mean, did we all work in the hotel industry in a former life? It's sickly, it's cheesy, and it's devoid of all sincerity. "You're Welcome" means "Go Away!" Which is exactly what I want this phrase to do. Thank You (You're Welco...Arr!).

Boondoggle

Boondoggle is one in a long line of 'lemming words' that I hate. You know these words – the media uses them to describe some sort of caper and suddenly we're all saying them.

Something-something-gate, Shock and Awe, Bennifer – the list goes on. And it's way too long. John Stewart did a montage on his Daily Show a few months back. It cobbled together all the various US media pundits who were using the words 'Shock and Awe'.

It was terrible – everybody was using it.

What's the deal with this? Do we live in a cartoon land or something? Does everything have to be boiled down to something catchy and cute? Did we ever get past Grade 8?! Operation Shock and Awe...it's enough to make you want to catch the next space ship outta here.

Stupid

I should be careful here, because I know I've used this word many times in this piece. But I'm talking about the spoken word here, and stupid is a word I really don't like to hear spoken (especially when people are using it to describe me).

Susie, my missus, won't let anybody use it in our house, and I think that's a good plan.

'Stupid is as stupid does,' said Forrest Gump. I don't really know what that means, so I guess that makes me...not so smart?

Chandler

OK, so it's not actually Chandler from Friends that I hate – or his name – I don't even watch the show. No, it's that ridiculous reverse negative thing he does with his sentences.

"Oh, that is so not true," he says to Ross, or the dopey one, and then everybody laughs. Everyone is using it now. It's nuts.

And it's not just teenagers. The other day my 40 year old work mate turned to me and said, "Ben, that segue was so not cool," after which somebody shouted "Bullshit Bingo" and got himself fired.

If this nonsense carries on I won't have anyone left to talk to.

Well, that's my list. Thanks very much for hearing me out. If you have any ideas on how we can strike these words from the record then I'd love to hear them.

But for now I think I'd better crack open another journal. We just finished wrapping up my son's birthday bash and one of the parents said something to her kid about, "Good Sharing".

I'm just going outside to see what these strange lights are. With any luck they'll be coming to take me away...

Next Week – Five Words I Really Like, and will try to use more often.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

14 Comments

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By Joe (registered) | Posted None at

My first impression of this article was 'how is it possible that words could drive someone this mad?', until I thought of 'chintzy'--a word that has the same effect as nails to a chalkboard for me. Having said that, I must admit that I can not fully understand Ben's interest in removing these words. The English language, having adopted (and continues to adopt) words from other languages, allows us to be very precise in our communication. When I hear 'implosion', I can immediately understand the exact type of explosion being described. It's a quicker, more efficient way of communicating. It also appears as though Ben, at times, confuses the 'word' with what the word is describing or how the word is being used. Ben--the only way you can eliminate these words is if you eliminate what it is the word describes. Good luck with that. Enough of that rant. Anyone else have words they hate (or hate what the word describes)?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted None at

Ben, I defy you to find one word that means the same thing as "juxtaposition". See? It's not just a crappy Piers Anthony sequel. :)

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted None at

Who's Piers Anthony? (Maybe I should do me some more learnin'...?)

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By adrian (registered) | Posted None at

I pride myself on having a good vocabulary, but I could not tell you what juxtaposition really means. I have a vague understanding that it means something on top of something else, or perhaps next to something else, as for the purpose of comparison. But this is just a guess. So I'm with you on this one: Ryan, cease usage at once, or, if you must use it, put a hyperlink on it that goes to the definition. I would like to add a word that I really can't stand to the list: paradigm. Paradigm is one of those words that always goes with another word, which in this case is shift. Paradigm shift. What a stupid phrase (in my opinion, without the word stupid everything goes to hell). As soon as I hear the word paradigm come out of someone's mouth, I prepare myself for an avalanche of bullshit.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted None at

Juxtapose (vt): To place side by side, as for comparison or contrast. Juxtaposition (n): The state or incidence of things, events, or ideas being juxtaposed. It's not a tired cliche (like paradigm - good one, adrian), and it fills a semantic niche that no oher word can replace easily. When your article has to come in under 800 words (ahem, ahem, Ben!), one word that does the job of five or six other words is a good thing, even if it has a lot of syllables. Anyway, the words I really, really hate are nouns that have been verbed by business consultants. "Action" is a good example, as in, "Who's going to action this?" Another example is "liaise", which is just plumb ugly. Having written this, I have to be careful. For example, I'm the editor of RTH, so I, um, edit the articles that are published here. To "edit" is to do what an editor does; that is, to check documents for spelling, grammar, and accuracy. "Edit" is a back-formation from "editor", meaning "editor" came first. Similarly, "liaise" is a back-formation from "liaison". In fairness, "edit" also comes from the french verb "editer", meaning "to publish", so its establishment as a word in itself was a mishmash of the two origins.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted None at

I knew I knew what you meant.

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By MadBob (anonymous) | Posted None at

Ryan, If you are an editor, then I think you ought to know what an editor does. An editor prepares things for publication (or other dissemination). Maybe you spend your time checking spelling and grammar; good for you. But other editors do not. For example the editor of a short story collection often concerns himself primarily with what stories go into the collection, how they are introduced, etc.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted None at

Hmm, the word 'pedantic' springs to mind... I think I might create another list entitled, 'Ten Ten Types of People I Hate'. Pedants would certainly be on up there ;)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted None at

Hi MadBob, To your point, part of preparing documents for publication is making sure their spelling and grammar are correct. On dictionary.com, the first displayed definition of "edit" is "To prepare (written material) for publication or presentation, as by correcting, revising, or adapting." (definition 1a) Definitions 1b and 1c are, "To prepare an edition of for publication: 'edit a collection of short stories'"; and "To modify or adapt so as to make suitable or acceptable: 'edited her remarks for presentation to a younger audience'", respectively. For the record, the first dictionary.com definition of "editor" is "One who edits, especially as an occupation." This, of course, is unintentionally ironic, since "edit" began its linguistic life as the word for 'what an editor does'.

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By Mike (registered) | Posted None at

Implosion describes when something collapses in on itself (like a dwarf star). It carries a much different connotation than explosion.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted None at

Hey, Anonymous: don' use no double negatives around here.

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By xanth fan (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2006 at 12:47:31

piers anthony is a very good writter who uses lots of puns in his xanth series. so far he is the best author i have came across.

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By mayor909 (registered) | Posted December 31, 2007 at 22:37:02

Justapose: If you download a picture and want to send it on with your comments, you can type your message onto the face of the picture The receiver gets that picure of the beautiful sunset or the naked lady, BUT with you message typed accross its face. Much like the word superimpose, which would include a much larger audience in your readers.

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By Anonymously (anonymous) | Posted January 02, 2009 at 15:37:34

i think that angelic is so not a good word

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