I am writing this from my cliché place, a quiet corner where my mind rejects all thoughts that include any words coined, minted, made up, imaginated (I made that one up too,) or otherwise foisted on the English-speaking world since at least the year 2000. Or last Thursday.
It’s a losing battle. I’m not even trying to be perfect with words. That fight was lost long ago in arcane arguments over grammar in the U.S. Constitution. So we plod along, dodging split infinitives, veering away from most adverbs, cringing at the way some journeyman words and phrases are hammered or honed into unrecognizable shapes and sounds.
One problem is that clichés come at us like a bat out of... see, there was one almost, already. Young people hear some noisemaker on TV use the word or phrase and, voila! It’s gone viral. Oh my, it’s getting difficult to communicate and remain cliché free.
The latest word I’ve heard being bandied about in an inexplicable context is, “chronic.” I thought it meant persistent. Turns out it does, but the word I heard that sounded like “chronic” is spelled in Bizarre-O-World as “cronic” and means slang for marijuana. Like pot needed another euphemism.
How about the word, “epic?” Here’s a typical misuse of the word among some chronic word mis-users these days:
“The Eagles concert at the Verizon Center was epic.”
No. It was excellent, entertaining and to some people, perhaps, transformative. But not epic. The heroic poems of the ancients were at least sorta epic. Frankly, my dear, “Gone With the Wind” had its epic qualities. The universe is epic, as in grand, monumental, larger than life. The Braves winning a world series would be Holy Cow epic.
If a chili dog at the Varsity is epic, then what is peanut butter and chocolate ice cream? Is that epic with a bullet? If Brasstown Bald is epic, what are the Rockies? If “Deadly News” is an epic novel, what does that make the Iliad or the Odyssey? That dude Homer would be “GUH,” a new slang word for annoyed or angry.
The current king of overused, misused, pain in the rear cliché is the word “iconic.”
In certain circles and a few squares around town, that word has been creeping through nerdville for two or three years. Now it is shouted from the tops of TV towers and from the planet’s iCloud empire(s?).
The dawn patrol weather man says to the guy in the traffic helicopter, “Hey Harry, it’s gonna be an iconic heat wave today. How about up there where you are?”
Responds Chopper Harry, “Well, an iconic how-r-ya to you too, Weather Wally. The traffic jam at Spaghetti Junction is super iconic and could set an iconic record for road rage by dawn.”
These fellas mean no harm. They hear “iconic” tossed around like fist bumps and blowy kisses and figure it’s socially cool, politically neutral and gluten free, so it’s OK to say a few times each day.
Mostly, icon is a space filler, like, “ya know” or “I’m just sayin’” or “kickin’ the can down the road.” What should be kicked down the road is, “iconic.” Ya know what I mean?