Reflecting on the past few years, I hope everyone has developed as much as I have. Personally, professionally, emotionally, even geographically. In just this past year, I graduated from college, moved across the country, and even bought a new coffee mug. It was a year of drastic transformation.
But this isn’t about me. This is about words. As we continue to make progress on most fronts (science, mental health, iPhones, reality TV spin offs), language seems to have taken a turn for the worse. It is a shame that words were quite literally* constructed in to communicate how we are feeling (Ergh. Want food. On fire. Want sex. Etc.), and there are no limitations on how we string them together. But somehow, many of us now rely on an impressively tiny and discrete thimble of words to react to any possible situation — specifically in the arena that many of us live in called The Internet.
This is a shame. Since we spend so much time attached to devices with keyboards, whether it be an iPhone, laptop, typewriter, or telegraph, we should all take pride in our mastery of the written word. Instead, the most popular meme this year was a braindead-looking dog that speaks in short unintelligible phrases.
Accordingly, I propose we move into the new year with a renewed sense of ambition, drive, and a gap in our vocabulary where these terrible, stupid phrases once occupied space. Below I have highlighted some of the most blaring violations of the English language that I often see. Feel free to add to the list here if you have suggestions. If you disagree, I urge you to leave feedback at EmailAddress@gmail.com
Variations Include: “SO MUCH THIS”, “This. This. This.” etc.
If you comment on something by simply saying, “This.”, what are you actually saying? I imagine you meant to say, “I agree with the author’s message and intent, and wanted to contribute some feedback of my own. However, I am unable to provide any unique insights beyond identifying that I am, in fact, aware that I have shared something. How about I just say ‘This.’”
There are two much more suitable options that I would suggest as alternatives to the horrible “This.” 1. Maybe don’t say anything. Have you really contributed anything to the conversation with this comment? You do realize that everyone likes you a little bit less now, right? 2. Use that big brain of yours, and come up with a statement, question, or exclamation. Examples include: “Wow, I can’t believe it!” “How does one justify the US defense budget as our education system fails to receive the basic funding necessary to equip our schools for success?” and “HAHA WOW ANOTHER FUNNY CAT VIDEO.” While these are not all positive contributions to the conversation, at least you are taking some sort of position on something. If your go-to response when sharing or commenting on something is “This.” you probably identify as “spiritual, but not religious.” Commit to something, man.
I don’t need to discuss this one. It’s the most overused and abused word in the book. The Oatmeal made a fantastic comic about it. It’s gotten to the point where cults of people live and breathe specifically to point out that you are using the word incorrectly. These people are also the worst, because maybe I do want to literally “throw a piano on them from a rooftop”, not use a “figure of speech.” I think maybe this word should just be put in time-out until we have shown, as a society, that we are responsible enough to use it.
3. Sorry not sorry.
The paradox presented in this sentence makes my brain bleed. (No, not literally.) First, I think this phrase came from an LMFAO song so that should be reason enough to never use it again. Keep in mind — the Venn Diagram of “People who have quoted LMFAO songs” vs. “People who have gone on to be President” does not overlap. At all. If the NSA wiretaps are to be used for good, everyone who has said “Sorry I’m not sorry” will be sent the appropriate $150,000 fine. I’d ask for prison time too, but I want to be reasonable. I am a man of the people. But you can’t apologize to someone for your lack of an apology, and that’s final.
4. This pic totally describes our friendship.
Variations: “Our friendship in a nutshell.” “So Us.” etc.
Honestly, I don’t even know how this became such an often-used phrase. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m sure you’ve seen it: some person you went to school with, never spoke to, but once made eye contact in Spanish class and then IMMEDIATELY added you on Facebook, because that classifies at friendship. Now you are exposed to her activity by default, unless she becomes a casualty of Facebook Jenga. She comments on a picture of herself with another friend: one is making a duck face and the other is doing something equally unique, such as throwing up a peace sign. Her comment: “This pic totally describes our friendship.”
If you don’t believe me, there is a simple test: you tag yourself and a friend in a generic stock image of an erupting volcano. You’ll have to wait six seconds, or half a minute tops, until the person you’ve tagged will let you know how this image of a rupture in the Earth’s crust ejecting hot lava has precisely captured the dynamic of your probably nonexistent friendship.
5. Because Of Course It Did
Lazy. Instead of giving you a reason for someone or something’s action, they tell you it happened because of course it happened. I’m sure you can imagine the BuzzFeed article now: Jennifer Lawrence Did Something Amazing Because Of Course She Did. This sentence is the “This” of sentences. Benjamin Franklin said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation” but he was lucky enough to die before this phrase entered the world. If he was around, he would amend this quote to say, “Everything in moderation, including moderation. But if you say, ‘Because of Course It Did’ even just once, I am going to electrocute you with my key-kite thing.”
I don’t think I’m overreacting. I want to reiterate the importance that we don’t rely on an increasingly small handful of phrases to respond to an infinitely larger spectrum of thoughts, emotions, and maybe even unique ideas. If gone unchecked, this will (continue to) destroy our ability to effectively communicate, both on and off the internet (do people still communicate outside of the internet?). And don’t get me wrong, I think it would be just as bad to speak Elizabethan English, because this sounds extremely pretentious, old-timey, and weird. Also, I’m pretty sure racism was considered a hobby and not a serious issue during that era. So I have no loyalties there. But imagine seeing a New York Times article; there is a building that has been clearly massacred by bombs and gunfire. The headline: THIS: Epic Peacemaking Fail! Dictator Bombs Civilian Hostel, Because of Course He Did!
Let’s just agree that we can do better. How about instead of that health resolution that ends up being the occasional salad for 2 weeks, let’s make change that affects us all. How about we cut these words out of our diet. After all, it’s free and easier to commit to (especially if there is an In n Out burger near you. God bless them.)
I recently discovered a surprisingly great article in-flight magazine about Jimmy Baca, a man who learned to read and write poetry while incarcerated. One quote resonated with me, as he articulates why our words carry so much significance.
Baca said, “From inside the walls that hold us and divide us, language has the means of breaking through into light, love, freedom, and celebration of life.”
My sentiments exactly. So how about you reflect on that the next time you’re about to say “This.”