Maybe it was just one of those days. I was hot, tired, and trying to keep my appointments on schedule and I wasn’t in the mood for people who couldn’t use plain words to get their point across.
On this day, a man leaving a message on my voice mail identified himself, stated the purpose of his call, and then said, “I would appreciate a return call so I can communicate with you.” I deleted the message.
Communicate with me? Whatever happened to talk to me? I can’t remember ever leaving a message for someone saying that I wanted to communicate with him, although I don’t hesitate to use the term, communicate, when it’s appropriate. An informal voice mail message is not appropriate.
Judith Martin, (Miss Manners), said, “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.”
People don’t stop to consider how their words are affecting the listener. They are more interested in communicating rather than talking. They are more concerned with how they sound than with what they are saying.
My friend had just started taking classes toward her Psychology degree and every other sentence out of her mouth was about this one “interfacing” with that one. I must have heard the word “interface” in all its conjugations, at least twenty times during our conversation. Funny, in all the years we had been friends, I never heard that word from her. It was as though she had learned a new word and she was determined to use it at every opportunity.
Let’s not forget the word, paradigm. All during the years that paradigm came tripping off the tongues of everyone, I couldn’t force myself to use it. I used every synonym I could think of but I couldn’t use that word. It’s been a while since it stopped being in vogue and just last week, I found myself using it for the first time in all these years. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen it in print or heard it in conversation for such a long time that it found its way into my vernacular.
Now, there’s the word iconic. Everyone and everything seems to be iconic these days. I am so sick of that word that it gives me hives to even think about it.
It used to have a special meaning. Whenever I thought about something being iconic, I placed it in the category of it being distinctive, unusual, unique, exceptional. Nowadays, that word is used indiscriminately to describe almost everyone and everything. It has become so common that it has lost its significance. One of the sources that I ran across said that it had been used 18,000 times in news stories, so how unique could those people or things being described be?
And let’s not forget the word, icon. Until computers were invented, an icon usually referred to a religious work of art, more often a painting or a sacred object. When computers came along, we were introduced to small symbolic pictures, called icons, which appear on your screen as shortcuts to access a program or data.
Unfortunately, icons are being used in excess these days and many of them are so ridiculous that you can’t even tell what they’re supposed to mean. Some websites have more icons than words and if you don’t understand what they represent, it’s sometimes more prudent to beat a hasty retreat rather than waste your time and energy trying to figure them out.
We must be living in the least creative period in the history of the world. It would seem to me that there must be many words that one could substitute for the word, icon, yet studies show that it has been used in conversations and news reports over 30,000 times.
But I don’t know of any word that has been used as excessively, for such a long period of time, in just about every area of life as the word, journey. I first encountered it about forty years ago when I was studying metaphysics.
I originally embraced this word to describe all of life, from birth to death, to the afterlife. And it was a lovely word until I started hearing it applied to everything except as a descriptive for people going on a trip, or embarking on an expedition or taking a holiday.
When I go to a gas station to fill the tank I almost expect someone to wish me a safe journey. They usually don’t, but just about everyone else uses the word to describe something that has no relevance to travel. I even heard a newscaster use the word and it had nothing to do with a safari or a documentary or anything that involved a few pieces of luggage.
So, I’m thinking that it’s time that I take some of these words out of mothballs and let them enjoy their journey into my conversations where I can communicate more effectively by interfacing with as many people as I can.
I would also like to communicate with the people who design the computer programs that are being created as a paradigm for our culture. These iconic devices should be programmed to eliminate at least 50% of the icons presently in use. With so many more inventions waiting to hit the market, these outdated icons should be retired from use so that the new ones can start out on their computer journey.
There. I think that covers all the words I had eliminated from my vocabulary and they may even make sense in a convoluted way.
Have a happy journey and don’t be afraid to interface with all of society instead of just sitting at your computer, which has now become iconic, and moving your icons around the screen.