Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Portentous
















1. "Book losing words" 
 
How many times can the reporters and correspondents at the Olympics ask the tired old question, How did you feel? In the aftermath of triumph or tragedy, all we seem to be getting these days is How did you feel winning, losing, falling, falling short, coming back, winning a medal, being here in Beijing, being an American, seeing the flag, hearing the anthem, accumulating all those medals, all those endorsements, all that wealth? How did it feel? Sometimes I think that most of those working journalists are too young to know that it's the question you never ask! They should have been better prepared. We're all "feeled out" having been asked how we feel when our homes are burning, when floods have destroyed our land, our possessions, and our dignity. We get asked for feelings when we come into money or go away to prison. Time for another line of reasoning. Push the question back, how do you think I feel? How do you feel asking me how I feel?
Most of us are well aware that folks are losing their vocabulary. It's dwindling about as fast as our savings accounts. I read somewhere that the average American teenager has lost about 14,000 words since the 1950s. It's no doubt much more than that by now. For some reason, as a culture, we've placed the burden of all our perception on the words amazing and awesome in the last decade or so. Everything is awesome or amazing. Fast food, little Timmy's refrigerator art, the color of a car, a cheese sandwich. I'm going to call a moratorium on those words; give them a much needed rest or we're going to lose them. I have at least a few uses planned before I deflate my float tube. I'm saving them up for a time the wonder index hits 10. In the meantime, I suggest we use the word portentous. It has a similar meaning if needed, but it also contains the connotation of warning! Look what happens when we use the same word for everything. Portentous dude!

3 comments:

Cameron McPherson Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cameron McPherson Smith said...

hi, had a horrible typo (for a writer no less!) and am re-posting my comment below;

i agree bruce, a recent show on the History channel had a guide to the ancient world at archaeological sites from Spain to South America, great pictures, great sound...enormous potential, but all he could say was 'these ruins are _so_ amazing!' or 'wow, this is _ncredible_!' ARGH! i wanted to say 'yeah i know, but _what's_ incredible about them? tell me something!' so for my students from now on the words 'amazing' and 'incredible' are banned from essays, i will press them to toll em _what_ is incredible or amazing about whatever they're writing about! these words are also from here out banned from my own vocabulary :)

Cameron McPherson Smith said...

p.s. oh hell, on blog comments i write fast and typos still get through, and i can't worry about them in such a medium. so sue me :) cheers, cms