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December 17

Let's Say Goodbye to the Problematic Words of 2017

By Sister Wolf

I vote for problematic as the most overused and annoying word of 2017, and I'm wishing it good riddance. It used to mean a thing that constitutes a problem. Now it can describe anything from your hairstyle to nuclear weapons. Here's good definition in the Urban Dictionary: "A corporate-academic weasel word used mainly by people who sense that something may be oppressive, but don't want to do any actual thinking about what the problem is or why it exists."

I like "weasel word," don't you? I'm going to start using it right now! Other words are making the annual lists of most annoying, like the term "Fake News." Personally, that one doesn't raise my blood pressure unless it's coming straight from the mouth of Donald Trump, but every word in that category is like a knife in my intestinal tract.

What about Insta? Make that one stop. It implies that it's too much trouble to finish out the word, like three syllables are too exhausting for the poor millennials. Insta-worthy needs to stop too, even though it's an apt description of everyone's single goal in life.

It's not that all slang is bothersome. It's just that some words erupt into our culture and infect all discourse like a virus. What starts out fresh and amusing quickly ends up maddeningly stupid, thanks to social media. The other day, I was looking at a high-end shopping site that described its new fashion arrivals as "lit af." I had to look twice. As Fuck once looked adorable as a two-letter suffix. Now I'm afraid that the Queen might tweet #happyaf after Harry's wedding.

Here are a few words that need to die or at least quiet down in 2018:

  • -shaming. Stop adding shaming to everything!
  • -awareness. Same as shaming.
  • man-. Mansplaining and mancave were great, okay? Now stop.
  • gender-fluid
  • inspo
  • snowflake
  • intentional
  • Hygge
  • tribal
  • woke
  • legit

Some words are inexplicably irritating and/or enraging. What about "adulting?" I see it more and more, and as a longtime adult, it disturbs me on every level. First, it's just stupid. But it also suggests that everyone is a big baby who finds any normal undertaking to be somehow wondrous and worth a fucking medal. You washed the dishes? Great adulting!

"Yaass" has been killing me all year. Why do we have to have it? It started in drag culture, apparently, and I'm all for drag culture as long as I can stop seeing YAASS or YAASS QUEEN. Please, RuPaul or Lady Gaga, let it go. Likewise, "dat (whatever) doe." I'd like to think I'm not alone in finding this one pure agony.

The more you love language, the more offended your ear gets when words are thrown around willy-nilly. For example, I just used willy-nilly instead of haphazardly because I thought it would sound cute and I rarely see it these days. Somewhere, someone figured out that we only use a tiny fraction of our vocabulary, which is a shame and leads to shit like "chill" as an adjective. I worry that people are actually embracing clichés instead of avoiding them. Maybe original expression is intimidating to a generation that doesn't read newspapers or novels?

Language changes, I get that, and I've been forced to accept that the word "literally" now means the opposite of itself. I've also learned not to scream when I see "artisanal" or "curated." Still, you have to draw the line somewhere. I wish the word "toxic" still meant poisonous. Now, it's usually part of an insult, like toxic masculinity or toxic parents.

"Allyship" is new to me but I already want it to go away. It's often the precursor to a lecture. However, I'm okay with "microaggression," as in "Using the word problematic around me is a microaggression." Another term that's overstayed its welcome is "dumpster fire." And even more egregious is the ubiquitous "No words."

YES WORDS! You can't get away with typing "No words" when someone announces on Facebook that their grandpa was crushed by an elephant stampede. You need to dig deep and find some words. "Sorry for your loss" or even "Poor grandpa!" would suffice; anything is better than "No words."

Communication is far from perfect even when you're trying your hardest. But unless you're committed to interpretive dance, words are all we've got. Let's use more of them, more imaginatively, in 2018. Let's say what we mean and mean what we say. Let's not torture our friends by calling ourselves "Blessed" and let's not call the guy we're dating "the boy." We can do better. I’m begging.

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