A Few Quick, Horrible Words

Time is tight this week and even though I have much to tell you about (a trip to Spain, some thoughts about Time Lord Regeneration and a weird fantasy I had while crossing a bridge) we’ll have to make do today with “a few quick words.” In particular, some words I don’t care for.

Ready yourself, dear reader, for a dullard’s glossary.

My dislike for these words is not political (though a political argument could be made against them) but aesthetic. In fact, my dislike of them is so visceral that my response when hearing them or seeing them in print is to say “eurgh!”

I should also mention that they’re not necessarily “wrong” in the grammatical sense (so don’t go looking for ye-olde examples in Shakespeare or mounting an argument about the evolution of language), they’re just ugly and stupid. You know, like your mum. Hah.

Gift or gifted. I fucking hate the word “gifted” when used as a verb — as in “this book was gifted to me last Festivus,” or “I gifted him a swift knee to the knackers.” There’s a commercial poster I’ve seen a few times in the street this week, which reads “Gift them your data and keep the whole family happy.” Well, how utterly nauseating.

Pen or penned. It’s unpleasant to see “pen” where “write” is what’s clearly called for — as in “he penned a letter to Her Majesty the Pope,” or “she’d been penning such therapeutic novels since Uncle Mildred tragically fell to moths” — and it’s especially foul given that it arises specifically in conversations about words and literature. Yuck!

Like “gifted,” I suppose, it’s a noun awkwardly masquerading as a verb but that’s not exactly my problem with it. I think it’s just that the person using it is trying to avoid saying a more regular word in order to avoid a cliche or to sound clever when in fact the simpler word is perfect. There’s nothing wrong with being linguistically creative to entertain yourself or others, but if “penned” or “gifted” is your idea of creativity you’re probably better off staying in the soft play area where you won’t get hurt by the bigger poets.

Eatery. This was originally my girlfriend’s peeve but it’s rubbed off on me and she’s right to dislike it. It’s revolting enough to witness in a restaurant review but people actually say it now too. Why would anyone say “eatery?” As in, “oh, it’s over there between the readery and the drinkery but not the one downwind of the shittoria.”

I think my dislike for this one comes from its inelegance (all those unnatural elbows in the space of three short syllables is like a bag of mismatched spanners) but also the guttural, philistinic, functional emphasis on eating. Even the lowliest restaurant or cafe — yes, even a Chicken Cottage — is for eating in but it’s also for meeting, gathering, talking, reading, spending, tipping, helping someone’s business, resting for a moment, watching the world go by, and a hundred other things. “Eatery” reduces it to a pit-stop where one might go to reluctantly work some matter through a tract.

And it denies a range of other, more specific and evocative options — restaurant, cafe, bistro, diner, chippie, bar, brasserie, carvery, vegan place, cannibals’ lair — and so has a terrible flattening effect. I wonder if there’s the DNA of irony in the usage of “eatery” — that someone saying it knows they’re reducing a venue of multiple complex transactions to vulgar basics? It’s possible but I still don’t like it.

Myself. There’s a rising mania for deploying “myself” in place of “me” or “I,” and can’t begin to fathom where it’s come from. People say “Davina and myself will be at the drinkery if you’d like to drop by” and “Parry, Dave, Andrew and myself all managed to fit into the wheel arch.” Why? Myself can’t understand it.

There you have it — How not to sound like a twat at parties. Just avoid using these words or ranting like a maniac about how you don’t like them and you’re on your way.

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