Stop With The Made-up Words

I admit that I can sometimes be a curmudgeon. On some matters I can be quite conservative. I think the designated hitter is an affront to the game of baseball, for example. But I am especially curmudgeonly about language. One of the things that grinds my gears the hardest is made-up words. 

A while back I was watching the news on TV after a bad storm, and the electric company’s spokesperson was being interviewed about widespread power outages. She said something to the effect of, “We are efforting to restore power as quickly as possible.” Okay, great. Wait, what now? Efforting? No. You can’t just make something into a verb as you please. You can make an effort. You can make every effort possible. You can strive. You can endeavor. You can work diligently, tirelessly, non-stop, and relentlessly to restore power. But you cannot effort, and there is absolutely no reason to do so. So many other perfectly good verbs already exist. Not using one of them is just being lazy. Lazing, if you will.

Two other examples hurt my ears on an almost daily basis. I commute to work by train. If I were to say that I train to work, one would assume I am learning how to do my work, rather than that I am riding on a train to reach my place of work. But every day when we reach the final station, the computer-generated train voice (deus ex machina?) tell us to, “Use caution when detraining.” Grrrr. I am not unlearning something every time we arrive at the station, am I? Unless it is unlearning proper English. To detrain sounds like the reversal of brain washing. To use words like “detrain” we must detrain ourselves from the rules of grammar.

If I’m not training when I board the train, why should getting off the train be called detraining? There’s already a perfectly acceptable word for this. Disembark. But disembark can also mean to set off on one’s journey. Okay, so maybe that’s not specific enough. So how about “alight?” The dictionary definition of alight is literally, “to descend from a train, bus or other form of transportation.” I’d rather be told simply “be careful when getting off the train” than to hear “detraining.”

I recently flew across the country for work. I had hoped this particular molestation of English was peculiar to the computer-generated voice of the Virginia Rail Express. But alas. As my United flight landed in Chicago, the flight attendant announced, “Be sure to gather all your personal belongings before deplaning.” To quote Cathy from the comic strip, “ACK!” When I boarded the plane in DC I don’t remember them announcing, “Now planing zones 2 and 3.”

I don’t even know where to start on the lingo of the younger generation. I have no idea what it means to be “on fleek,” or where (much less why) that made-up word even originated. In my day, getting “lit” meant getting drunk, not being super cool, as it does now. As in, “I just drank a sixer of Milwaukee’s Best and now I’m pretty lit.”

Being “on point” meant you were leading a platoon on patrol in the ‘Nam, not that your look was particularly fetching. Just watch Full Metal Jacket for reference. Everyone knows being on point gets you killed first by Charlie during the ambush (and it’s usually the expendable black guy, but that’s a topic for a whole other essay on Hollywood’s lack of wokeness). Which reminds me, “woke” has always been a verb, not an adjective.

To “slay” something meant to kill it in a particularly brutal way. Just like Charlie slew the point man in ‘Nam. You could slay a G.I. with an AK-47, but you couldn’t slay him by wearing a stylish garment or getting a lovely new hairdo.

There, I’ve said my piece. Call me a grumpy old man if you will. But whatever you do, please stop efforting to slay the English language.


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