A reader reminded me recently that when I started this blog I said I was going to talk about the misuse of words in public discourse. Be a word cop, in short. I confess I’ve strayed from that mission, what with Reichsleiter Donald Trump threatening our very lives nonstop here on planet earth.
In any case, I resolved early this week to find time to return to my original purpose.
My first action was to put two much-abused words on the disabled list (DL), with hopes that they might return to health and use with rest.
The first was “absolutely.” You can’t listen to talking heads talk these days without set-up questions being answered with an “absolutely.” Besides the lethal repetitiveness of the word, it’s risky usage: in a post-Einsteinian world of relativity, very little, if anything, is absolute. Give the word a break.
Second is the puzzling popularity of “existential,” as in “existential threat.” Why this fancy way of saying “real,” “factual,” or “empirical”? Is it because of its visually close association with the word existentialism, the fashionable philosophy that makes you sound important? Then quit showing off, I say as a practicing existentialist (Camusian variety). You’re only confusing your listeners for no good reason.
That’s where I was when Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Why? Front and center with the answer came the president’s back-up flack, Sarah Huckabee Sanders: Trump did it “for atrocities [committed] against the chain of command.” Really? Against Trump’s chain of timid and misinformed toadies? Atrocities? Really? Did Comey bomb Yemeni hospitals? Re-open Auschwitz? Or not swear loyalty to the mentally deranged New York street thug who obstructed justice by demanding he do so?
I suggest all you Trumpenproles out there open a dictionary and look up the word “atrocity” for starters. And do I think firing Comey after asking him to end his investigation of General Flynn for his ties to Russia poses an existential threat to our continued existence as a democracy? Absolutely!