Three Lost Words

I recently finished a book, Mrs. Poe, by Lynn Cullen. It is a good book, by the way, but she wrote a line (among many) that caught my attention: “To a writer, words are currency.” English has lost its effectiveness in the specificity of what a particular word conveys. In my quest to learn French, I have noticed how specific a person must be when speaking. To say the least, the English speaking world has gone slack in this approach. I have targeted three words that have significantly lost their meaning:

  1. Starving. For many who use this word frequently, they are not. In a horrible irony, the people who often use this word could stand to actually miss a meal or two and be perfectly fine. Oh, a person might be very hungry, but he has not reached the critical point of starving. For me, this is an insult to the millions in our world who are actually starving, and it lessens the urgency of the word.
  2. Suffering. As a cyclist, I hear this word often. In the past, I admit that I am guilty of using it too. Riding in hard race or struggling up a steep grade does not constitute suffering. When used out of context, does it not take away from the meaning of the word? The suffering of Christ, re-told in the Bible, is a crystal-clear definition of the word. To take away from the word by describing a hard bicycle ride is to be dismissive of the true definition.
  3. War/Battle. These words are used interchangeably in many instances, especially in sporting events. Playing hard, twisting an ankle, or getting a concussion does not even hold a candle to the definitions of war or battle. Being a veteran, I have lost a close friend in Afghanistan and seen the effects of combat. A football stadium is not a place of battle, and a championship game will never be a war. Again, using the word(s) out of context cheapens the meaning of true sacrifice.

Now, I do understand the use of colloquial expressions and idiom phrasing. I respect the use of informal and formal expressions. I would just like to see certain words that depict something much deeper to be used in their truest since of the meaning. Many would say that I am being silly. Communication is important and should be used effectively. We should speak and write clearly and take pride in the words we choose to use.


14 thoughts on “Three Lost Words

  1. I would agree those words along with others have lost their meaning. War or Battle as a metaphor for sports is ridiculous and also is one of the ways to desensitize the public to War.

    The Western-World community, as filthy rich as they are, does absolutely nothing about poverty or I should say, education, which is the crux of the problem along with Tyrannical governments. The west will fall as a result of their unbridled greed and I hope to live to see it.

    The US military-industrial, war machine has all but numbed most people to it’s constant, atrocious acts of warring across the globe. Killing women and children in the name of “freedom” one of the largest ruses in history. Many people are dying, starving and truly suffering, while the Corporatist-Fascist, Plutocracy ruled West consumes and in-debts its way into oblivion. Very sad indeed…

    The Moral compass in most of the world has degraded to the point where nothing seems to alarm the masses. It’s slowing sinking, the days of the western empires in Europe, Asia and the U.S. are coming to a slow end. I think so many are going to be in serious shock when it begins to actually collapse. Things are simmering across the globe, ready to boil over. More and more nations are rising up and it’s only a matter of time before there are real revolutions.

    So, ride as much as you can and enjoy every minute of it, Don’t take those moments of freedom and enjoyment for granted. Because the world can change, drastically, horribly in just one day.

  2. Agree with every word of this. Another word that has been unfortunate to be misused is “frontline” (as in healthcare). As a healthcare professional I find this equally dismissive of the work that I do. Am I at war knee deep in mud trying to kill others? No. Although I am mindful that I often aim to eradicate micro-organisms, I am in the business of getting people better or alleviating suffering.

    The use of such a term speaks volumes of the ignorance of those who use it – politicians and the media.

  3. our present deputy prime minister no less kicked off a debate along these lines over here when he described, in a discussion of marginal tax rates at the higher end of the income bracket, a group of people as ‘literally in another galaxy’

    I suppose that if you are understood and are using a term in its common usage then there is no problem but I am also maybe a little old fashioned in terms of how we use some words, and language inflation where every inconvenience becomes a battle and anything we find quite nice becomes awesome can grate a little

    There was a debate on a UK bike forum today about americanisms in UK english but the general opinion seemed to be that english is a living language and usage will adapt and evolve – as someone put it, we don’t want to be like the french and have some organisation lay down the law on the language, and in so doing ossify it

    1. Well said, NB! I love the way English evolves, but it needs to be used appropriately and in the right context. Oh my, the word “literally” is another one of my pet peeves. Thank you for the comment!

  4. You are, no doubt, correct. I can’t disagree with what you’ve written, especially as it pertains to “starving” – guilty as charged. On the other hand, I can’t help but think this is much ado about nothing. We know the difference between “war” and “war” (and so forth).

    Perhaps this is one of those faults of our sound bite world, thanks to journalists and politicians alike. When the stupidity of the voting public is sought, that’s generally what you get.

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