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.
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:
Ew! Or as we used to say, Ugh.