I wasn’t looking for more things to be irritated about–especially with my new resolution to stay as much as possible away from the internet–but somehow I ran across this anyway. It’s an old but ridiculous list of words dictionary dot com didn’t think we should say in 2020. You remember that long lost year where so many things were foolish and unpleasant? Well, if I had seen this then, I would have known it was going to be bad, but I just went blithely on into life with no concern about anything. Maybe it was merciful of God to spare me. Here are some great bits from the “article”:
It’s OK; most of us unknowingly use problematic words and phrases from time to time without thinking about their origins or how they could hurt some groups of people. What’s not OK is to keep doing it once you know it’s wrong.
Poor dictionary dot com, they didn’t know that “problematic” would turn out to be one of the most overused and useless words ever. Not being omniscient, they couldn’t know that, though, they might have been willing to avoid it for stylistic reasons, like the fact that it sounds sort of prissy. And they couldn’t know that there were going to be so many more enormous problems that the use of the words on this list would have been the least of their worries. The first word they hated for 2020 was “Spirit Animal” and the reason they gave for you not to use it was:
The problem is that spirit animals are an important part of the belief system of some cultures and refer to a spirit that “helps guide or protect a person on a journey and whose characteristics that person shares or embodies.” Referring to Baby Yoda as your spirit animal is actually cultural appropriation, so next time you go to type this on social media, try one of these fun synonyms instead.
Their “fun” suggestions include “kindred spirit” which I feel like is cultural appropriation from Anne of Green Gables which people shouldn’t be allowed to read if they aren’t going to get it (coughNetflixcough). The next word is “Sherpa.” They write:
If you don’t hail from Tibetan stock and live in the Nepalese Himalayas serving as a porter on mountain-climbing expeditions (yes, we know, that was very specific), you’re not a Sherpa. Nope, not even if you lead your friends to the best burrito spot at 2 a.m. or help your roommate pass their chemistry test. Sherpa is actually an ethnic group and attributing the title to others is disrespectful.
Heh heh heh…didn’t see that coming…sorry, if you didn’t get a chance to read the Rachel Hollis book called Didn’t See That Coming, which was rushed to the market in 2020, you won’t know that she self-styles as a “sherpa.” Too bad she didn’t see this important “article” beforehand to know how disrespectful she was being. Also, is dictionary dot com allowed to call other people “stock?” I feel like that sounds creepy, also “burrito spot.” Do they mean “restaurant?” Careful people! Don’t offend anyone when going out to try to eat delicious food such as your soul loves!
The other words are “Ninja,” “Nazi” (I’m sorry, this word is always suitable in every online conversation) “Gyp,” “Scalp,” “Binging” (because of being disrespectful to those with eating disorders), “Guru,” and finally, my personal favorite, “Hysterical.” Here is dictionary dot com’s deathless prose on this important subject:
If you find something or someone to be hysterical, meaning funny, that’s OK. If you’re calling someone’s actions hysterical because they’re being emotional, then you may want to reconsider. Far too often women are dubbed hysterical for being outspoken or showing their feelings, and that wades into problematic, sexist territory due to the history of the term. Hysterical’s earliest meaning was “of, relating to, or characterized by hysteria,” and while we now think of hysteria as irrational panic, it was, for centuries, a medical diagnosis. Hysteria comes from the Greek hysterikós, which means “suffering in the womb.” So, yeah, the ancient Greeks believed that when a woman was behaving irrationally—or in a way that they considered to be irrational—it was because her uterus was literally wandering around her body causing trouble (Kory Stamper, “What It Really Means To Call A Woman Hysterical“). Plus, have you ever heard a man being called hysterical … we’re guessing not.
Acktshully, dictionary dot com, I have called a lot of men in 2020 hysterical, you just didn’t know because I didn’t say it online, I just said it quietly to myself. Too bad “Irony” didn’t make the cut of words I guess we don’t need anymore. You know what’s kind of hysterical? Lists of words like this. But more than that, the really objectionable thing is the fact that they used “problematic” at least twice in this thing, and the other very awkward constructions like “dubbed,” “wades into” and “due to.” If I had been editing this for one of my kids, I would have asked in the margin “what wades into? Women being ‘dubbed hysterical?’ ‘Wades into problematic, sexist territory due to the history of the word’ is not very elegant.” I don’t let any of my children ever use the construction “due to.” “REWRITE” I always write in all caps every time I come across “due to.” I’m sorry, in 2020, dictionary dot com produced some awful writing. And don’t forget the “So, yeah,” which I only use as much as I do to be mean.
Of course, that was 2020 and now we’ve progressed into the enlightened world of 2021 where this person has given up using words like “happy,” “sad,” “normal,” “truth,” and “epiphany,” because, and I kid you not, he doesn’t
believe epiphanies exist. Sure, we may have certain “Aha!” moments. But what do they add up to if they do not alter, in some fundamental fashion, the way we live? We’re born, we die, and no one ever changes really. Even for James Joyce, an epiphany is just a literary device.
Too bad for him that tomorrow is the actual Feast of the Epiphany in which something was seen by all the world that had never been seen before, or rather someone. Who, you ask? Jesus, that’s who. If you are wanting not to worry so much about the correctness of the words of the moment, and if you are about to misspeak or something wicked, you can turn your attention to the Word who is able to gather up all the words in himself and make them nice and useful again. Imagine! God using words to tell us about The Word, the only one who overturned death and who is able to “be the change” (another stupid and terrible phrase we should give up in 2021) we all so long for. Tinkerty Tonk (and I mean for it to sting).