Word Vomit?


My son identified the degeneration of language as “word vomit.” He went on to explain. “Can you think of a better way to describe the intolerable abuse of our language perpetrated by today’s uneducated generations? I think very few people look for just the right word to fit the thought.  People don’t use the correct words to convey their meaning, they use general words and then apply their meaning to them so words lose all meaning altogether as they’re used in hundreds of different ways.”

Though I understand his point, and agree with it, I would argue with his choice of the word “vomit.” It suggests to me not a plethora of definitions, rather a spew of unnecessary words. I recall a comment from a college history class. A Roman orator, (his name is too ancient to be recalled) spoke exceedingly well, but had nothing to say. Listen to the presidential hopefuls spew words like vomit. Like a baby playing with its own spit-up, they return to stir the same overabundance of words and present them as a new message. (Please note, I am not citing a particular politician, rather all recent and present politicians.)

For myself, I would choose to label it “word contamination” coupled with laziness. Bad is used in place of good, wicked bad when something is excellent. My bad replaces, excuse me or it was my fault, good one is derisive. Saunter, a synonym for a slow walk,  is misunderstood as a swagger, something negative. We over use, pretty, nice, and awesome until their definitions becomes contaminated with triteness. Because we have become too lethargic to search out the precise word, many expressive choices slide into the proverbial hole of darkness. They are not, however,  lost forever like the one sock without a mate, but reside in dictionaries and thesauruses on bookshelves everywhere. They may be plucked from obscurity and used freely if we are not apathetic. (The sock, alas, must shift for itself.)  Texting, another lazy language habit, has regressed us to communicating in letters. R U – mmmk- or simply- k. I’m sure more examples could be shared. I seldom text so my vocabulary in the text world is limited.

Is modern English an update or  is it also subject to the law of entropy and on a fast ride to low as you can go? Will it devolve to a grunt which states and answers everything? The common language of the teenage boy  will constitute the entire vocabulary? I’ll be a literary nerd who pleads to all forgotten words, “I believe in you.” I like to think that with power of use, those words will continue to glow.


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