We need to speak more better

By Michael Howlett

January 15, 2014

As one might expect from someone who writes for a living, I like words - strange words, beautiful words, melodic words, even crude words. I don’t guess that last one really surprises anyone, but I’m just trying to cover all bases.

For many years, weasel has been my favorite word; there’s just something about it, the way it rolls off the tongue. Whether you’re talking about the animal, a garden tool or a feminine hygiene product, weasel adds the perfect touch. It’s a perfect name for just about anything really. In fact, Rooster Edwards’ youngest daughter is named Weasel.

I am also very fond of ethereal, which means “celestial, unworldly, immaterial,” and the name Uriah Heep. Before you object to Uriah Heep being included among words, you should know that a name is a word or term used for identification, so it is bona fide. Now, some of my more erudite readers will recognize the name from the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield. My less studied, but more rock n’ roll readers, may recognize the name as that of a 70s hard rock group. Either way, it has a wonderful sound to it.

Recently, however, I’ve come across a word that that is so magical that it may become my favorite word. The word is kittywampus. I don’t know how it has been possible for me to go so long without becoming familiar with this word, but when I did, well, I was ecstatic. Since I wasn’t aware of this word’s meaning, I had to go on instinct. That said, I thought it had to mean a back-alley rumble between the tomcats and tabbies, or a kitty orgy. I could tell you its real meaning, but I like my definitions much better.

But, actually, I’m not here to actually discuss my favorite words. No, I’m here to discuss not only mine, but apparently a large portion of this country’s least favorite words. In a recent survey, the word whatever received the most votes (38 percent) for the most annoying word of 2013. Now, if used correctly this is a fine word. However, when used as a dismissive answer to a question or demand, it raises my ire, skins my squirrel, burns my tortillas.

Ranking number two on the list is the word like, not as in I like me a good kittywampus, but as in like via a Facebook posting. Rather than like, couldn’t Facebook give us more-to the-point choices, such as, that was a very astute observation, I find the photo of your child very beautiful, or what the hell are you thinking.

Rounding out the top five are you know, just sayin’ and obviously. You know is most often abused by athletes. “You know, the coach told us, you know, that we had to play tough, you know, because the Bobcats, you know, are a tough team.” Wouldn’t you like to hear a player say something like “The Bobcats are an extraordinary team that execute their game plan at a high level, and a team we will have to thoroughly prepare for if we are to gain a victory.”

Just sayin’ is used as a way to express views without conviction. If you tell someone “Hey, jerkball, you need to get off the crack pipe,” they might take offense. However, if you phrase it, “Dude, maybe you need to get off the crack pipe, just sayin’,” it comes off as less judgmental.

Obviously is most often used by people to give the impression that what you’ve just said is well-known, even by them. For example, you say “Throughout recorded history, several cosmologies and cosmogonies have been proposed to account for observations of the universe. The earliest quantitative geocentric models were developed by the ancient Greek philosophers. Over the centuries, more precise observations and improved theories of gravity led to Copernicus’s heliocentric model and the Newtonian model of the Solar System, respectively” and your friend replies “Obviously,” even though he thinks that Copernicus is a heavy metal group from the 70s.

So, I guess what I’m saying is “Good people, please say what you mean. Be direct and specific, be concise and erudite, and for Heaven’s sake, get off the crack pipe.”