08 June 2013

Somebody Get the English-Speaking World a Freaking Thesaurus!

Has anyone noticed that everything this year is being touted as "epic?" Probably the most unfortunate use of it was the sportscaster who referred to some athlete as having "epic humility." Epic humility? Really? That's more of an oxymoron that an apt description. In 2011, everything was iconic and now everything is epic. I fully blame the internet for this. How else do you explain such a rapid dissemination of a word into daily usage? Well, except maybe for the 100th monkey theory of species knowledge. I'm not sure I even want to go there. But it seems to me either one or the other is true, unless someone can show me who is sending out mass emails every couple of years, informing people what the English word of the year is going to be. Actually iconic rolled over a bit into 2012 in the US and was shared with Great Britain as the most overused word in the English language, until epic took its place. As I mentioned in my blog, "An Iconic Year for the Pusillanimous Logophile," there really are a lot of words left in the dictionary to use. Lots of words. I'm not kidding. You can look for yourself. Flip open your OED or your Websters. There they are on every page, just hanging around on the corners in danger of being arrested by the dictionary police for loitering. Let's put these words to work for goodness' sake before it's too late, and they have to wonder about the streets begging for dots to feed their i's and dashes to cross their t's. 

I mean, seriously, everything in the world cannot be epic. Otherwise the word loses its status as being, well, an epic word. Putting aside the use of epic that is connected to poetry, the word is one of those hyperbolic descriptions that simply can't be applied to every situation. Everything in the world can't be "heroic, majestic, and impressively great."  That is the definition of the word epic, after all. Words operate in relation to one another. One thing can't be great unless other things are not so great. This can't exist in a world where everything is epic. It's the yin and yang of things. As it says in the Tao Te Ching, "When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad." (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2) Now I'm not saying that it wouldn't be great to live in an epic kind of world, but could we at least come up with some different words to express all these epic moments, people, and things? There is even a free online thesaurus, so really there's no excuse for the lack of synonyms in the advertising and television announcing world. That's the great thing about a thesaurus, if no alternate words come to mind, you can at least borrow some. Consider the lowly thesaurus as a library for words. You don't have to create alternate words in order to benefit from them. How about heroic, massive, colossal deeds, films, books, and cars? Well, maybe not cars. The last thing we need are massive and colossal cars to hit the sales floor now that a tank of gasoline is the same price as a surgical procedure, but you get my drift. 

What comes after iconic and epic? Perhaps we could have a website where we all vote on the Word of the Year. Or Time magazine could choose one. Come to think of it, since I don't read that magazine and no longer have weekly exposure to it from working in a book store that sells it, perhaps Time is choosing our word of the year, much like they've chosen our person of the year for so long. I'll have to check into that. Whatever the case, I may start choosing my own Word of the Year. Maybe I can add a little friendly competition to the words that are being drug, kicking and screaming, out of the pages of the comic book world, and splashed about for a year like cheap cologne. I suspect that Batman and Superman wouldn't mind if we added a few other hyperbolic words. Hell, come to think of it, what's wrong with hyperbolic? Oh yeah, a lot of people wouldn't know what it means, much less how to text it. Epic is a perfect word, by the way (a.k.a., btw) for the texting world. For any word to catch on these days, it will either have to be fairly short or it has to abbreviate really well. But don't get me started on Textlish, which is of course English as spelled by texters. You realize, don't you, that texting represents the next step in the evolution (or devolution) of the English language? Eventually we'll all have to be able to read minds so we'll know what someone means when they try to tell you where they're located if they are somewhere other than a numbered street or one with a very short name, like Oak or Pine. But I digress onto a subject that is begging for a blog of its own. In the meantime, while most of us in the English-speaking world still count English as their first language, even if Textlish is running a close second, let's all go dust off our thesauruses and load our word guns with words like hyperbole and exaggeration, so we'll at least know when they're being used to describe absolutely everything from sports figures to mouthwash and soft drinks as epic or iconic. I'll even throw in the internet link for an online thesaurus for the Googlephobic: http://thesaurus.com/. Now let's go paint the world with colorful word images and leave epic and iconic to the comic books, along with kapow and kaboom! 

Beth Mitchum is the author of seven novels, two collections of poetry, one collection of biographical essays, one collection of spiritual essays, and one music CD. She is also the editor and contributing poet in the Sappho's Corner Poetry Series, which now includes: Tulips Touching, Wet Violets, and Roses Read. All of her works are available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, BethMitchum.com, BookshopWithoutBorders.com, and numerous other online bookstores. They are also available by special order through nearly any independent book store. Go to http://bethmitchum.com for more information or to her author page at Amazon.com. First chapters of her novels and memoirs are available at bethmitchum.com. Beth is also the founder and senior editor for UltraVioletLove Publishing and the many websites run by this entity.

1 comment:

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