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Friday, April 12, 2024

Trying to understand: Wasting words

 “As humans, we waste the shit out of our words. It’s sad. We use words like ‘awesome’ and ‘wonderful’ like they’re candy. It was awesome? Really? It inspired awe? It was wonderful? Are you serious? It was full of wonder? You use the word ‘amazing’ to describe a goddamn sandwich at Wendy’s?! What’s going to happen on your wedding day, or when your first child is born? How will you describe it? You already wasted ‘amazing’ on a fucking sandwich.” –Louis C.K.

So why do people “waste” their words? When it comes to using the English language, I don’t think people understand that they often use words incorrectly, especially when describing a feeling using adjectives.

Employing idioms is a typical way to talk and express the way one feels, but our vocabulary as a general population has been narrowed down far too much. We incorporate a small percentage of words found in the dictionary into everyday life, often resorting to the more extreme ones like “awesome” and “wonderful” to convey an emotion.

Clearly people will understand what you mean when you use these kinds of exaggerated words, but to encourage precision, we should try to find words that more accurately describe a circumstance.

Without actually putting in an effort, people will find it hard to expand their vernacular. This is why I think it’s a great idea to implement a “Word of the Day” into your daily life. Instead of focusing on an “Outfit of the Day,” maybe people should be more concerned with language, seeing as it’s an important part of being a well-rounded member of society.

Not only do people generally lack an expansive vocabulary, but the words they do use are sometimes used incorrectly. Certain adjectives such as “magical” and “surreal” are commonly used in a magnified manner. The thing is that we don’t comprehend that a more accurate word can be used instead, because we often rely on colloquial speech.

Even if you have an extensive vocabulary, you’re going to fall victim to the misuse of words once in a while.

Not only do we misrepresent situations with the improper use of adjectives, but we also botch our sentences by incorrectly applying words like “literally.”

Did you really just literally destroy that person with your words? No, I think you mean you figuratively destroyed them.

“It was the best thing ever when he opened that jar of Nutella!” Really? Ok, so you’re basically saying that no moment from here on out will ever compare to when he opened that jar? It’s all downhill from here?

“That cookie was magical!” Seriously? How freakin’ so?

Think about it … this kind of miscommunication happens quite often, doesn’t it?

There’s a distinction between the connotation and denotation of certain words and phrases, but some people are unaware of how to differentiate between the right and wrong terminology.

The reason people misuse words, whether consciously knowing so or not, is because if accurate descriptions of a moment were given, then there would be no emphasis and people’s reactions wouldn’t be as strong.

If someone said “Wow, that cookie was of a satisfactory taste and now I feel the same as I did before,” instead of referring to the cookie as “magical,” would it produce the same effect? No.

People like using hyperbolic language and commonly overemphasize most things, but that makes for a more interesting conversation, I suppose.

There are oodles of words to choose from and everybody should start to have some fun with vocabulary! Build up an arsenal of words, refine your knowledge of the English language and create a superb repertory for future conversations.

SAVANNAH HOLMES can be found in the dictionary under “anomalous” or can be reached at skholmes@ucdavis.edu.


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