The W-Word, As In “We Are Not Amused”


A CREEPING TREND OF LITERARY infantilization is loose upon the printed land: we refer specifically to the practice of substituting for a contretemps-laden word a reference to its initial letter: “the T-word,” “the F-word,” etc.

We recognize and laud the noble impulse to avoid giving needless offense. Yet this usage has reached a point where it is difficult to understand what’s being communicated. Newspaper columnists routinely headline their works (e.g.) “Avoiding the R-word,” necessitating a quick (and sometimes fruitless) scan to divine whether or not what they wrote is worth a read: Recession? Rentals? Ripoffs? It’s a waste of mental time and energy. In this busy era of media saturation, with screen crawls and popups vying for our attention every moment, we need more clarity — more brevity and concision — not less.

(And this doesn’t even get into the “cuteness” factor, that’s become so typical of public discourse (see also “veggies,” “smashed potatoes,” et al). It maketh the eyes to bug and the spine to shake to hear adults speak in such a fashion. We’re not saying we should all go back to wearing ties and hats, but we at The Metaphorager feel one’s inner childhood is better expressed with pranks or an indefinable eye-twinkle than with woojie woojie wordage.)

Bottom line: We’re busy people here. Keep it simple — don’t get in your own way. And if you really feel you need a euphemism, be brave.

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3 Responses to The W-Word, As In “We Are Not Amused”

  1. Kathryn on 2011.09.13 at 1935

    I’m with ya. I do adore the term “dropping the F-bomb,” though. :-D

    Thank you! for mentioning the infantilizing of certain words, particularly on restaurant menus that cause me lose my appetite. At first, “veggies” was cute when said by gay men who were deliberately going for the campy affect. However, now that some 30 years have passed, I’m over it.

    Far worse, though…if I could choose just one word for the English-speaking world to stop using altogther…I beg of all, please, PLEASE stop calling my underwear “panties!”

    • Neal Ross Attinson on 2011.09.14 at 1240

      Right there on the “F-bomb.” (I also find bleeped expletives hilarious.) But that’s a special case, as befitting the “Swiss army knife of words.”

      • Kathryn on 2011.09.18 at 1214

        Yes, bleeping cracks me up, too. There was an X Files episode in which the actors all *said* the word “bleep” and “bleeping” in place of the swear words – very funny.

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