The Passion of the Wordist

Yesterday, I heard MSNBC commentator Ari Melber discussing the infamous memo, and he described it as parsimonious. Naturally, I was upset.

I love Ari Melber. He is so smart, so affable and charming, and I even like his infatuation with rap and hip hop. So the word-usage problem was especially hurtful. I decided to write to him. Here’s what I wrote:

Tonight I heard you use the word “parsimonious” in reference to the stupid memo released today. I was upset because my husband and I just played an imaginary game of Who Would We Rather Have Dinner With, you or Chris Hayes, and you won!!!!

Did you mean to use parsimonious or did you mean to use another word?

No pressure, but everything is hanging on this.

Best regards and thank you for being a light in the wilderness.

Joane xo

I think I was a little stoned, because I misspelled my own name. Funnily enough, Chris Hayes also worried me recently when he used the word disinterested as a synonym for uninterested, which of course it is not. (I now know this glitch to be a phantonym.)

These are little things, but I want the people I respect to be above such mistakes. That’s how much I am invested in words. It’s emotional and visceral and even moral: USE THE RIGHT WORDS, MOTHERFUCKER, to paraphrase Pulp Fiction.

My sister loves it when people say “supposably” but that’s different. That’s just adorable. I love when someone says “had went.” I also loved it when a policeman responded to a complaint about my son’s garage band, and as he lectured us, he said something about “conversating”. My son and I exchanged a look of delight that I’ll always cherish.

Talking to my shrink recently, he encouraged me to let go of something. And I explained that I’m against letting go. Of anything. I just don’t like the concept, because I don’t like the words Let Go. I always interpret them as abandonment. I prefer to hold on, and hold on tight.  I suggested that I refused to Let Go of something, but I was open to walking around it.

How can words not matter? Every word, every inflection, means something. That’s why we have them! As imprecise as they are, you can still come pretty close to expressing your ideas if you know enough words. You can be thrilled to your core by a few words strung together in just the right way. You can be dismayed or even heartbroken as well. If you’re like me, you can go around being exasperated by people who think nonplussed means nonchalant, even though the tide is against you.

Old people, did you know that the expression “Ugh!” now means something positive?

This year, I posted my annual list of words to ban over here. I know you will like it. But I’ve since come across a good list of awful new words I didn’t know about and here’s a few more for good measure:

hive mind
side hustle

Ew! Or as we used to say, Ugh.

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6 Responses to The Passion of the Wordist

  1. Bevitron says:

    Did you ever hear back from Ari? I heard him say parsimonious, too! I was alarmed at first, but then, because I never trust myself, I wondered if they’d gone and changed the meaning of parsimonious, and I’m just clueless.

    It drives me crazy when people use ‘tact’ when they mean ‘tack,’ like you might take a different one of. Ugh. Oh, wait….

    I do love your list!

  2. Pocketsound says:

    How do we even define words these days as the Merriam-Webster does include conversate. It classifies it as a verb. Does sheer misuse just make it so? What is the authority on grammar?

  3. Romeo says:

    “Old people, did you know that the expression ‘Ugh!’ now means something positive?”

    Godfuckingdammit no.

  4. David Duff says:

    “Words, words, words”, as that gloomy Dane was wont to say.

  5. Pocketsound says:

    And “oy” spoken from gentiles !!!

  6. Suspended says:

    Nonplussed – Always used in the opposite way to what the word means. It’s driving me mad.

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