Word Nerd: 5 words we want to CANCEL

27 Dec


These words are . . .

Yes, we get that languages evolve and change. But the internet has accelerated this evolution into chaos. Tbh, we mostly love the jargon, which makes our preferred method of communication these days really easy. Also, deploying the right slang is a great way of branding oneself on the internet. It can even make us look nearly as cool as the right Instagram filter.

But, there are limits.

Words, even the fun and shiny ones, belong in certain contexts. S0, just as certain words can connect us to certain audiences, they can disconnect us from others. Think signing off a resignation with, ‘Girl, bye.’ Or a mentor’s farewell email with, ‘You’re cancelled.’

So, here are 5 words we need to think about very carefully before using. It’s not necessarily because they are politically incorrect or sound awful but they are a vague, diffuse way of speaking which makes for poor communication in any context other than the comments section or  Twitter.

Ish: This word is in the OED. Its context is informal. And the meaning is ‘to some extent.’ Ish originates from the ‘-ish’ suffix which turns nouns into adjectives. For example, ‘The moon looked reddish.’ This word would be a poor choice in contexts like statistics and engineering. Or while sharing deadlines for applications and submissions. If you must, use it wisely.

Janky: Also in the OED. This word means ‘of extremely poor or unreliable quality.’ It could be applied to anything from software to pasta to performances. But again, this word is informal and says very little except how one felt about a product/experience. Ideally, we’re all grown up enough to give better feedback. So, how about a ‘that photograph would come out much better from a higher vantage point?’ rather than ‘that’s one janky angle right there.’

Zhuzh: Also spelled zhoosh, or zhush. This word sounds onomatopoeic but it isn’t. To ‘zhuzh it up’ means to glam it up or make it more attractive. Anything from selfies to stories to interiors can be zhuzhed up. But again, this word is a wispy cloud of meaning. Why not go for something more exact and make conversation great again?

Cancel: Can we please cancel this word? And the culture? It is easy to rage at strangers over the internet but if 2020 did us any favours – it was to remind us of our collective culpability. We all make mistakes (by which we don’t mean unrelenting racism or sexism or other sins) and we need to learn and grow together. Amirite? (No, please let’s not use that word either)

Any words you want to add to the list? Tell us!

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