We have a tendency to share things: food, drink, conversation, beds and words. Let’s focus on the last one. I’ve always been a proponent of having a good vocabulary. Why? Because it’s really good to use words in specific and precise ways. Many people, however, use words to impress others or sound hip, cool or in-the-know.
No place is better than Washington, D.C., to hear words take off like a dragster. Home to our national leadership and defense programs, there’s no question that a lot of trendy terms ooze forth from the Beltway. There’s a great tendency to use military terms, engineering phraseologies and technical terms and transfer these to common, but hip, discussions.
Take the presidential press secretary’s comment a few days ago. He said that a White House nomination that was running amok may have to be â€œrecalibrated.â€ I love that. It’s much better than reconsidered or rethought. It sounds so much more, well, official.
Another term I like is â€œlead from behind.â€ A favorite of pundits on the Fox News Channel, this phrase takes a moment to sink in. Are you saying the president is dissing his leadership role and taking a back seat in international and domestic affairs? Sounds like it.
I remember some terms that have come and gone: going ballistic, going postal. Those were good; they combined military or government agency terms with threats of violence. But at least the latter one arose from events now distant.
Other D.C. words I like: equilibrium, osmosis, cherry picking, stealth, upside, downside, collateral damage, and friend of mine. Of course, you have to like â€œliterallyâ€ in almost all cases.
Let’s not forget the new forces in trendy word creation, the Internet and technology. â€œSelfieâ€ is one that seems like it could have sticking power. â€œBandwidthâ€ cannot be beaten as a good old standby: â€œDo you have the bandwidth to finish this project on time?â€ â€œHashtagâ€ has become commonplace, and there are more coming â€œonlineâ€ every day.
My old adage in writing used to be: When in doubt, leave it out. Looks like that maxim is as dated as my dictionary. Literally.