First Wordist Manifesto of 2016: Voracious

the marriage feast

In the last few days, my sensitivity to words has been causing problems at home. It’s like a chronic low-grade illness that sometimes becomes acute.

I was starting to read an essay on millennials when the word ‘peruse’ caused me to make a snap judgement: Anyone who would use the word ‘peruse’, in the first paragraph no less, was not worth my time.

I brought this up to my husband, who saw no reason to react to ‘peruse.’

It’s hard for me to accept that some people just don’t care about words that much. Probably most people. It’s such a real, visceral response for me when a word is used poorly or is just intrinsically awful, like peruse.

Some words just make me cringe, even though they are apparently harmless to others. But peruse, come on! There’s just no reason to use it unless you’re deliberately trying to sound stupid. It’s like using ‘loquacious’ when you could just say ‘talkative.’ Or using ‘sans’ for ‘without.’

I wanted to think of a term for this category of annoying words that connote an effort to sound smart. I have only come up with ‘bourgeois’ but I’m hoping for something better.

Meanwhile, someone on the radio yesterday said this about some guy who died:

He was a voracious joke-teller.

My brain went AAAAAAAAAAAAH.

You can’t be a voracious joke-teller, I complained. Maybe the guy was an inveterate joke-teller. Voracious implies an appetite or hunger. It’s bad enough that people always use the cliche ‘voracious reader’ but at least it is used correctly.

I could not get agreement from my husband so I turned to my nephew, a wordist of the highest order. He suggested ‘avid’ for the joke-teller.

Genius, right? Meanwhile, my husband and I retreated into our separate worlds of not caring and caring obsessively about voracious joke telling.

I turned to the Oxford Dictionary online to soothe my nerves.

Definition of voracious in English:
Wanting or devouring great quantities of food
he had a voracious appetite

Voracious implies something you can take in or ingest, then.  So you can’t be a voracious singer, duh.

But then, there is a second definition:  Having a very eager approach to an activity.  The example given is his voracious reading of literature. Elsewhere I found the example he was a voracious collector.

I’m going to stick to my guns about voracious joke-telling. It is an improper use of a word that was employed just to sound smart but ended up making me furious, but not as furious as those who are sick of my fucking wordist nitpicking.

If you have perused this whole rant, kindly opine on my condition whilst I consider upping my meds.


*extra points if that ‘Cheers’ put you over the top

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20 Responses to First Wordist Manifesto of 2016: Voracious

  1. Sam says:

    Absolutely on your side, I mentally kick myself when I say ‘awesome’ about what is actually just good.
    I end subscriptions based on the use of the word ‘space’
    Yes, I’ve ranted before vis-à-vis (v??z?-v??) on this subject.
    Just because we can google it & find it, doesn’t mean we have the education or personal weight behind the use of it (she says ironically)

  2. Andra says:

    I am so enraged by the complete misuse and destruction of the English language that I no longer even bother to express my fury.
    It’s a lost cause and will only deteriorate further.
    They can’t read, they can’t write, they can’t add up and it doesn’t matter any more.

  3. David Duff says:

    It’s not so much the occasional use of individual words that irritates me but their constant repetition once they become popular particularly with the ‘kiddie-winkies’. Sam, above, points at “awesome” which is loathsome when you’ve heard it for the 3,875th time!

    In the meantime “In second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”, I shall shuffle off for my morning coffee about which I can become quite voracious!

  4. Mary Liz says:

    I hate “impact” used as a verb.

  5. Joan says:

    I’m with you on voracious, I’m less bothered by peruse, but I’d have to read the paragraph… Sometimes the pretentious word sounds, or even fits, better, and sometimes, it’s just pretentious.

  6. Eileen says:

    Sister Wolf!
    Every time I think I have a ‘query’, I google & find out that ‘popular usage’ has superseded..blah blah blah
    A Voracious Reader

  7. Miranda says:

    Voracious: as in Vampire lust. I also DETEST “read” as a noun; dang; AWWWW; it’s all good(?!); it is what it is; etc. Keep writing! I await your posts anxiously. OR, as a ‘friend’ says: he was ‘anxietal.’ Just shoot me. ??

  8. Bevitron says:

    A long time ago, I hope, I used to actually write (try to write) like I’d taken a highlighter and gone through some Shakespeare and picked out the words that nobody really used, but probably weren’t actually obsolete – like contumely, suborn, incarnadine…that kind of thing. Jeeezus. I don’t think pretentious can cover that. Oh the shame.

    Anyway, I hate the ‘voracious’ and ‘peruse’ things too, but I probably do shit like that anyway, still, without even meaning to, as a watered-down leftover from the old incarnadine days. But I like being a wordist; I get enraged but stop just short of homicidal.

    “Takeaway,” meaning a fact or lesson learned, I guess, is one I’m sick of. And everything everyone else has said. Someday can we do malapropisms?

  9. Suzanne says:

    Love this post. I’m with Miranda on changing verbs to nouns/nouns to verbs. Just when I was ready to accept that people will continue to “gift” people, I read a line where a woman mentioned she was busy vasing flowers. I hope that one does not catch on.

    After last night’s CNN assessment of the Iowa Town Hall Meeting, “hawkish” is on my shit list.

  10. Lolacita says:

    Voracious reading still implies taking something in. So in my mind it works. But a voracious joke-teller? No.

    Even worse than impact as a verb is ‘impactful’ – gross!

    I also hate it when people add a syllable to try and make what they are saying sound more important (or impactful?!?) – and recognize no distinction in meaning between, e.g., instant and instantaneous, historic and historical, contemporary and contemporaneous– How to sound pretentious and stupid at the same time!

  11. annemarie says:

    The word bourgeois names something specific that “middle class” does not– middle class is just an economic term that includes anyone who is not rich and not poor, but bourgeois has hoity-toity connotations, comfortably off people who went to college and go on interesting holidays and read books and import their opinions from the New Yorker and Harpers. It’s an excellent and very useful word. I could not do without it.

    This isn’t a word but it’s like your voracious joke-teller story. My husband works with a young woman who is always forgetting shit. One day, she said “oops, baby brain!” My husband said, “Oh, did you have a baby?” She looked at him as though he was stupid and said, “eh….no?”

  12. Dj says:

    Ok here goes…

    Awesome for everything, cool as a response/reaction for everything, spot on (ridiculous sounding), suss (?) as in sussing out information,whites using black vernacular, no worries, all sports language, still hate curate, blessed (loathe some) all degraded philosophical mumbo jumbo — it happened for a reason, it is what it is, something better will come from this. Utter fortune cookie hogwash!!
    As long as we’re in the midst of our country being absolutly vilified and written off by the rest of the world,
    Donald trump, Ted Cruz, republicans, evangelical, tea party, constitution, debate.

  13. Katy says:

    A phrase that perfectly captures the ridiculousness of using word like “loquacious” when you mean “talkative” is calling them five dollar words.

  14. Jaimi says:

    I’m SO annoyed by fashion websites and buzzfeed type lists that “PROVE” something. It needs to stop!

  15. kate says:

    The over/misuse of dumb words is why I don’t read practically anything on the internet anymore. I’ll read news, product reviews and forums, but blogs and “articles” I skim. Recipes on blogs are the worst offenders, always with these mile-long faux humble/nostalgic/quirky preambles. Our American schools have ruined our vocabularies (along with our math and critical thinking skills) but thank goodness we still have our inflated senses of self-worth!
    Your blog is the only one I read with full attention. Maybe because you are the smartest person on the internet or perhaps just the most honest.

  16. drollgirl says:

    my dad isn’t well educated, but he reads a lot (note: i did not use the word VORACIOUS to describe his reading habits) and through this process he would find new words he liked and just use them to death. ABSURD was his favorite word for years. he used it a lot. then he started using the word EXQUISITE — a word that i think applies to almost nothing in life.

    i was just a kid during my dad’s EXQUISITE phase. he took my family out to dinner one night at denny’s. the waitress asked how our meal was, and my dad replied that it was “EXQUISITE”. the horror. wrong wrong wrong wrong WRONG.

    oh. here’s another one. long ago i worked at MOCA. the chief curator — a well known JACKASS – was in a board (BORED) meeting that I had to attend (i was the loser taking minutes — don’t get excited). i was filled with glee when he said that something would just EXASPERATE THE PROBLEM. i could only laugh silently at his faux paux (a phrase my dad pronounces FOX POX). that’s probably my one and only fond memory of that jerk off.

  17. Sister Wolf says:

    drollgirl – This really remind me of my own dad, who loved to say ‘piece de resistance’ and ‘statuesque.’ Once he was telling me aboaut a woman he liked to talk to and said, ‘We have such a repertiore!’ (meaning rapport)

  18. helen waite says:

    I have not checked in at SW for a while (dunno why) but my return was rewarded with seeing this post on a subject that is also one of my bugaboos, yet slightly harder to articulate. It’s close to the misused word/punctuation/grammar irritants that many can unite in disdain of, but not quite; perhaps a subset?

    Anyway, yeah – that pretentious use of words in some sort of attempt to convey “intellect” or confer “gravitas”*.

    You know where I hear that stuff all the time? Football announcers (why must they say “the football” rather than “the ball”? ) and police in news reports (“individual” or “gentleman” rather than “person” or “suspect”).

    I’m also sick as sh-t of:
    “uber” instead of “very”
    “channelling” instead of “dressed as” or “imitating” – extra hate-points when they are “channelling their inner____-“.

    Blow me.

    Thank you, SW.

    * there’s another overused one.

  19. Suspended says:

    I need the word “edit” to go away in reference to fashion. There must be a “sartorial” genie somewhere that can grant me that one wish….possibly two.

    Fuck…now it’s giving me roman numerals and black dots in my mathematical subtraction. Kudos for have the weirdest captcha system I’ve ever encountered. I love it, in the worst kind of way.

  20. Michael west says:

    Every time you write exegesis I groan and have to look it up. It sounds like an anal wart. Normally I love rococo syntax and funny words.. but there are limits.

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