What Are Words For

Yesterday I used the term proper channel to mean its implied opposite as in Snowden should have reported problems with the NSA through proper channels when his data dump included evidence that proper channels would only lead to a cover-up and the offending whistleblower getting fired (if not silenced more permanently).

I came across the Wikipedia list of banished words which collects words that are overused and may have lost their meaning and are adapted as words to avoid in manuals of style for certain periodicals (they mention Time and the New York Times, both of whom have been losing my respect for some years now for adhering to mainstream best practices.)

Speaking of which best practices is on the 2013 list. As is conversation (2016).

I’m pretty sure the last one came from President Obama stating I would welcome a conversation regarding a number of topics, usually ones in which government officials are arguing against what would best serve the people (e.g. mandated backdoors in data encryption, or mass surveillance of the US people.) The irony is that Obama is inaccessible for a conversation, except through proper channels.

This is why terms like these are hazardous: They have a literal meaning (e.g. a dialogue between two people, maybe to come to an accord), a clichèd misuse (Obama offering discourse, knowing he’ll never have to follow through) and an ironic meaning referring to the misuse (I welcome the conversation of how much business the government should have with my private data.)

We’ve had a lot of news of proper channels intended to silence whistleblowers and complainers. The media industries is chock full of best practices which mimic aspects of prior works without understanding the context, hence a Batman v. Superman movie (I hear) about explosions and more explosions as opposed to (say) human characters being human in extraordinary circumstances. So these days when I hear someone should go through proper channels it means that person should STFU. And a game made consistent with best practices usually sucks for its adherence to policy.

Job creators is on the 2013 list. I had assumed that it had less to do with people who actually create jobs (that is to say business enterprisers) and more to do with affluent people who are embarrassed they are glad for the privilege they have above the rest of us (and don’t want to participate in the society they exploited to gain their wealth if that means parting with more of it.) I’ve never actually heard the phrase Job creator in reference to someone who’s actually creating jobs. (e.g. Job Creator Danielle Rockefeller, mining magnate and employer of over 90,000 workers will be opening a new facility in the California basin, creating 12,000 more permanent jobs in the Sacramento area.)

Manspreading is on the 2016 list and is a new term to me. Manspreading is the practice of spreading out your limbs to expand your personal space (She-bagging is the feminine / purse-enabled form, involving placing a purse or baggage to stake territory). This is a common transit practice on lightly-occupied coaches to encourage others to sit elsewhere. It’s appropriate to recede one’s personal space as the vehicle fills up, but the practice of wanting more space when it’s available is rather common. I manspread and she-bag since I prefer to have space if it’s available to be had.

I’m not sure why sexting (2012) or selfie (2014) or app (2010) are on the list, considering their meaning is clear and we didn’t have terms for those things before. (The last refers to small applications for mobile devices, in contrast to large, full-featured applications for full-sized computers.) I wonder if it’s a matter of someone not liking that we’re talking so much about apps, selfies and sexting.

Blowback (2012) is a common espionage term from the cold war that has reentered common parlance on account that we’re engaged in an awful lot of (clumsy) espionage of the kind that would increase blowback. (Blowback is when your espionage efforts have unintended negative consequences that make the news.) The FBI, NYPD and many (many) precincts are being run as espionage agencies rather than police departments, since they’re subject to less oversight that way. And, yeah, when they mess up they can end up with more than a little blowback.

Things continue to actually trend (2013) on Twitter and Google, since both services actually keep track of how much people talk about or search for things. Transparency (2010), or rather lack of it, is more of an issue than ever. These days I tend to see opacity since that’s what we got. Everywhere. Including the aforementioned police precincts and the FBI. Spoiler Alerts (2013) remain valid when you’re going to spoil an ending of some popular media story thing. Or maybe that’s used ironically, say to indicate the ending of this story is pretty durned intuitive.

The abolishment of Feminist (2015) I can get behind (along with Atheist and Christian) on grounds that these are movements too big to lump together. The minute one suggests feminists believe… or feminists would say… there’s probably a sizeable portion of them that don’t and wouldn’t. You might have to revise your statement to specify which feminist said or did what.

But then, what do I know? I’m literally (2015) cray-cray (2015).

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