Manzanillo Sun

The Twisted Way We Gringos Speak

2011 October 2011 Tommy Clarkson

By Tommy Clarkson from the October 2011 Edition

Humans are a funny lot – an observation made in a not altogether complimentary way. Sometimes, it seems, we’re actually a rather pathetic lot bent on mimicking the actions and speech of others rather than engage on own metal capacities to communicate.

Too often, we appear inclined to parrot that which we hear said by those around us. By way of example, I remember from my military days, hearing the

Commanding General use the word “Kudos” when praising the work of a particular unit. Within hours every officer in his command was employing that word in – what seemed – every other sentence. “Kudos were everywhere: “Kudos for that training” or “Kudos for how your unit was convoyed to their area of operations” or “Kudos troops – a job well done.” I half was expected one to blurt out something in the nature of “Kudos to my bowels for their rather remarkable movement this morning!”

By the way, have you any idea of the origin of that word?

(“Kudos” not “bowels”!) All this time – for whatever wrong reason – I erroneously thought it to be either Japanese or Korean. No kudos for me! It was, originally

Greek meaning “glory” but is now, generally, used to indicate “acclaim or praise for exceptional achievement”. . . . except in Finland where it means “tissue” – of the biological sort, which begs the question as to whether a successful plastic surgeon in that country get kudos kudos!

But back to that proclivity of ours to copy others.

“This robust system effectively mitigates potential for failure” is a good, current, example of how we glom onto certain words and then use them incessantly at any and all opportunities possible. If I’ve heard one government bureaucrat or senior military officer use “robust” and “mitigate,” I’ve heard it . . . well, you know.

Now mind you, there is certainly nothing wrong with the word either word. “Robust” in its contemporary use seems to be, generally, that of the second definition in my computer’s dictionary, “built, constructed, or designed to be sturdy, durable, or hard-wearing”. However, excuse me but my age is showing, as when I hear the word, strong, dark Columbian coffee or a black and white, 1920’s cinematic full-bodied blond come to mind.

As to “mitigate”, what’s wrong with the good, old fashioned, unpretentious word “lessen”? Recently deployed back stateside to work with the Midwest and national broadcast and print media during the unprecedented (that’s another of those now well worn words!) flooding of the Missouri River I could not but cringe with the number of times I heard it overused.

The only 15 letter word that can be spelled without repeating a letter is uncopyrightable.

The longest word in the English language that has ever appeared in print has 1,909 letters and is the name of an enzyme. The full name of DNA has 207,000 letters but has never been printed.

We mitigated flood damage, engaged in levee erosion mitigation and strove to mitigate overtoppings, sand boils and seepage. (See me outside this column for further explanation, but suffice it to say, that none of those relate to bosom enhancement, gravel abscesses or a need for Depends!)

How about the almost snooty – now that’s a word from my early, rural beginnings that I still enjoy and can’t find enough opportunities to use – and now hackneyed “facilitate?”

“Help”, “aid”, “assist” or “conduct” just aren’t good enough anymore, apparently. We “facilitate” meetings, events and get-togethers. (By the way, were you aware that “facilitated” is a past participle as opposed to the third person, present, singular, “facilitated”?” Ya’ just never know when that nugget of knowledge will come in handy!)

In the run of the mill, communication trenches in which most of us mill amuck, we all will recognize the pedestrianization (I’m sure you fast recognized that I absolutely made that word up) of “amazing”, “awesome”, “literally” and “seriously” – perhaps along with “really.”

And, young people have, of course, totally (there’s another one) worn out “whatever’ and “like,” right next to the monosyllabic, non-word utterance of “Duh!”

Earlier this year, Tristan Devereux wrote a short article saying that “the most annoying, clichéd, hackneyed, and downright unintelligent word of the current era that . . . (is) doomed to be swept into the dustbin of language” is “epic”.

This, unlike my earlier examples, is quite possibly more overly used by writers than those incorporating it into conversation. But his point is valid. Once used to describe the likes of The Illiad it now may be used to explain a multi-inning baseball game or simple, triple-decker sandwich.

But really and seriously now, in my efforts to facilitate your awareness, what awesomely amazing information have you literally derived from this epic of an article? Robust kudos to you all! Well, duh, whatever!

Lymph, v.: to walk with a lisp.
~From a Washington Post reader submission word contest


Download the full edition or view it online