Friday, November 20, 2009

Words, Words, Words

Dear friends,

I was thinking this week how cheap words can be. A total bargain. You don't even need coupons. We spend words every day, but how many of us really get their meaning's worth out of them?

IT, for instance. This pronoun is nothing more than empty calories added to an otherwise healthy sentence, and can be downright misleading. I'm convinced that the word IT was invented by an ancient evil empire who sent this wee germ into the Forces of Good camp to spread misinformation. The evil empire died out because they weren't careful in their deployment and use of IT spread around their own cities like H1N1. But, to this day, people sprinkle their sentences with IT like a bad chef uses too much salt. People get confused as to which noun that little troublemaker is supposed to modify. The last non-living thing in the sentence? The object of the paragraph? Writers, do us all a favor and lay off IT.

The paragraph above also applies to the word THERE. Unless THERE is being used to describe a specific place, don't go THERE.

Then we have words that are kidnaped and their true meaning locked away in a dark dungeon. The words themselves are made to mean other things, usually to the point where the word is completely devalued. The perps of this particular crime tend to be people in power--politicians, corporate executives, car mechanics. Take the word LIBERAL, for instance. By the dictionary definition, I think most of us might want to describe ourselves as liberals. Either that or admit we're close-minded stick-in-the-muds. We all want our spouses to have a liberal point of view when we come in at 4 am. We want our traffic judges to be liberal when deciding that little DUI charge. We most certainly want St. Peter to be as liberal as possible when we stroll up to the Pearly Gates.

The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Year for 2009? UNFRIEND. Rumor has it this is actually an old word, at least 17th century, that had pretty much gone extinct until Facebook sent the spark of life into its DNA and brought it back to life. I'm not sure I'm in favor of resurrecting archaic words. Did anyone think to find out why "unfriend" fell into disuse in the first place? Why not do CPR on a more positive word like "twixt" or "skybosh" instead?

Still, in honor of the rebirth, I felt a nice 17th century-ish sonnet to UNFRIEND was due:

Wouldst thou unfriend me who shares all thy posts
And always tags thy face on other's pics?
I so live for thy idle status boasts;
Each day this is the way I get my kicks.
Send not I to thee my Farmville requests,
And push my views political on thee?
Along with all the Harry Potter tests,
As well "Which Twilight character are ye?"
Thy causes I espouse as if mine own;
Sending my bucks to most unworthy folks.
Thy fan clubs all I join from my cell phone,
And clicketh I on "Like" for all thy jokes.
Wouldst thou explain? I haven't got a clue,
O friend who wouldst unfriend a friend so true.

Your friend,

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