Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"iconic" and other words that should be retired

Lately, I've become aware that certain words are being tossed around rather recklessly.  The most abused words of the moment are "icon" and "iconic."  An anchor woman on a local television station breathlessly promoting "Fuller House," the Netflix sequel to the late 1980s sitcom "Full House," invoked the word "iconic" to describe the original series.

Iconic?  I wouldn't know.  I never watched the show.  I had a life back in the '80s. But something tells me that it was just another insipid sitcom.

Matters really hit home when I was watching Tuesday's episode of "Live with Kelly and Michael" (a terrific show I would never miss) and guest Carly Rae Jepson discussed her role in Fox's upcoming "Grease: Live," in which she plays Frenchy, a part originated in the 1978 film by Didi Conn.

In describing the role of Frenchy (and her meeting with Conn), Jepson invoked the word ... "iconic."  OK, that's it. Enough's enough.

I'm old enough to remember when "iconic" was reserved for a play by Shakespeare (not "Full House") and for characters like Blanche DuBois and Sugar Kowalcyzk (not Frenchy from a tacky movie musical like "Grease").

"Icon" and "iconic" are the new go-to words favored by talk-show hosts (both late-night and daytime) to introduce guests or describe the characters that those guests played/play in some disposable movie.

Frankly, I've grown weary of those two words, as well as several others being abused by talk-show hosts and social media.  What follows is a random list of annoying words and expressions that I think should be banned. Feel free to disagree - or add to the list.  Here goes:

Trendy show-biz expressions that annoy me: "Showrunner," "Tentpole" and "Residency," a word reserved for overpaid divas who set up shop for a few months in Las Vegas. And don't even ask me what "tentpole" means.

Trendy male-oriented expressions that annoy me:  "Bromance," "Manscape," "Man Cave," "Dad Bod" and "Junk."  (Why would any guy, except a self-loathing one, describe his penis and testicles as "Junk"?)

Trendy social media expressions that annoy me:  "Selfie," "Gone Viral" and "#hashtag."

"Baby Bump," the gratingly adorable word adopted by people who are phobic about using the word "pregnant."

"Family Friendly," a reason to avoid a movie or TV show.

"Going Commando," used to describe the dubious tend of eschewing underwear.

"Politicize," a word randomly tossed out by politicians against other politicians who have successfully used a cause to their advantage.

"Haters," used to describe anyone who confronts, challenges, questions or dares to criticize a public person.

"Shaming," used to describe those people who have been ridiculed for their weight, hair, tattoos, piercings, face or utter stupidity.

"Artisanal," favored by foodies, restaurant critics and food-show hosts to describe anything made by hand in a kitchen. Formerly "home made."

"Journey," used by celebrities and victims alike to describe their lives.

"Empower," "Empowered" and "Empowerment."  Popularized by self-deluded actresses when they agree to appear nude in a film or need an excuse for doing a graphic sex scene, whether it's gratuitous or not.

"Brand," the new word for "identity."  It could refer to a single person's "brand" (any Kardashian, for example) or a TV station's "brand" (HBO and the aforementioned Netflix come to mind immediately for some reason).

Any others?  Share!


Brian Lucas said...

"Iconic"? How about "idiotic"? That would better describe the junk being praised on talk shows.

Sharon said...

I'd like to add the word Empath to your list. I always thought of it as a specialized, esoteric word, rarely used, but now I hear it all the time. I think people use so that they come across as intelligent.

rob said...

infrastructure. that's a word that was suddenly being repeated over and over again on news shows ad nauseum. i remember rachel maddow using it at least a dozens times a night on msnbc back in the day. finally, the people using it got sick of it and moved on. hallelujah.

Kevin Barry said...

I am in total agreement with you on all of these overused words. If I never hear the word "dude" again, that will be fine, too. It is more important today to be cool than literate, which is why - in less neanderthal times - a "man cave" was called a "den".

joe baltake said...

Kevin. Yes. The word "dude." Hate it. I've hated it for nearly three decades now. It refuses to go away, even though "Bro" has seemingly replaced it.

Alex said...

I find it curious that Robert De Niro is still considered an "icon" despite his participation in junk like "Meet the Fockers," "The Big We3dding," 'Grudge Match," "Last Vegas" and now "Dirty Grandpa."

joe baltake said...

Alex- Good point. There should probably be some kind of time limit applied to how long that word can be used to describe someone whose iconic years are something in the distant past. I feel the same way about when someone is awarded an Oscar hastily and prematurely. Once they've proven to be unworthy of that accolade - say, after ten years of mediocre work - they should be required to return the Oscar.

McK said...

Joe, do you know how many Oscars would have to be returned?!

Jennifer said...

I'm watching "Entertainment Tonight" and Julianne Hough just used the word "ionic" to describe the dialogue in the original "Grease" film. Give me a break!

Charlotte said...

Chillax. Awful.

c.g. said...

"Bro" and "chillax" both bother me to no end, but not as much as "en trend."

jay reid said...

Brangelina and all those other cutesy words that splice together two names. It's like high school stuff.

Vienna said...

Underrated . Just means you think more of an actor than most people do! It's used far too often.

joe baltake said...

Vienna- Just about every review that I've read of a Glenn Ford movie has referred to him as "underrated" by the critic in question. Underrated by whom? Why by critics of course? If he was underrated, it's because he was such a subtle actor that he rarely received the acclaim that he deserved. Critics should bnd the word "underrated" from their vocabulary and simply appreciate simplicity more. -J

Sharon said...

"Iconic? I wouldn't know. I never watched the show. I had a life back in the '80s. But something tells me that it was just another insipid sitcom."

I highlighted and copied this sentence on first read because, as so often happens, I AGREE. It is heartwarming to discover another opinion we share. Then I continued reading, nodding and murmuring approval sentence by sentence. YES! Too much "trendy" gibberish is heard on the airwaves. My analysis is that there's a constant need to sound "with it" or whatever happens to be the current voguish phrase of the day. Or moment. Or #.

Revealing my idiosyncratic status: this linguistic habit is the result of a failure to read and develop a working vocabulary. Forecast: it will only get worse.

joe baltake said...

Sharon! You use the words "with it." I use "cool." I've never quite understood the desire to be seen as "cool," which is little more than an affectation. I remember Entertainment Weekly devoting one of its issues to "cool" - who's cool and who isn't. It was back in the day when Madonna was at the top of the list. Everyone on the "cool" list seemed like they were constantly celebrating Halloween, always in costume, so to speak, and hidden behind a mask. I guess the average reader was supposed to think, "I wish I could be 'cool'." LOL (to use another annoying language trendlet).

Ashgrove said...

Couldn't agree more with your list, Joe. (As for Full House, "insipid" seems much more apt.)

A lot of annoying territory has been covered here, both by Joe and by the worthy commenters. I will contribute "celeb" (ugh), as well as "mansplaining" and "whitesplaining," two words that made some sense in the beginning but now are mainly used to bully people into silence, regardless of whether they are right or wrong.