Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The wordsmith’s lament

It’s funny how hard we try to constantly reinvent our language, always searching to replace the words we use. Some are totally serviceable words and we should keep them. Others make my head explode and should be on one of those “Words That Need to Be Banned” lists.

In covering the trucking industry, it’s easy to get sucked into using certain words. When so many topics stubbornly stick on trucking’s radar screen, but your job is to write fresh new copy everyday about it, you spend a lot of time with your fingers hovering over the keyboard, trying to avoid using worn-out phrases.

As we move into 2012, I hope somebody comes up with some new ones.

I am a wee bit tired of regulatory overload, race to the bottom and second-class citizens. And thrown under the bus – as in what the EPA is doing to trucking – can be retired, too. And when we are talking about the FMCSA website, we need a replacement term for having to drill down to a certain part? Or go deep in the weeds? That was kind of fresh last year but outlived its cuteness, sort of like carmaggedon.

Then there’s the corporate mumbo jumbo. When you hear what a major OEM or some major trucking company is going to accomplish in 2012, why is it always that they are well-positioned? The company is always – if nothing else –forward-thinking. These corporate PR people make themselves sick coming up with a word that does not reveal how precarious the company is in these tough times. They’ve told the trucking press that so many times when it was clear there was trouble, those words designed to be positive now make me suspicious.

And speaking of positive – let’s lay off positivity for a while. And I think we are getting close to exhausting our use of the aha moment, too.

In the past couple of years, if something went wrong in a real big way, it was an epic fail. This was OK for a while but let’s retire that one, too. And by the way, it’s OK to use big. Why why why do we have to keep looking for words like ginormous and humongous? Maybe a pet peeve, but I’m tired of those two words.

In describing some fabulous truck design or chrome and light show accessory, we need to implement restrictions on wow factor. Maybe Land Line only uses it once a year.

Guys, I am calling for a ban on tighty whities. You women who work in the trucking industry, I have one for us, too. Let’s vow to quit saying we have to put our big girl panties on when it’s time to take on a challenging or unpleasant task.

It’s not just trucking words. I have said “I’m jes’ sayin’” for the very last time.

I’m also swearing off three A words in 2012. Yep, I am done with absolutely, awesome and amazing.

I like Anderson Cooper, but he has said amazing enough times in 2011 for all of us.

Same with “bad actor.”  That term was clever at first, describing people in trucking that are a black mark on the industry. The feds really glommed on to that phrase. I think it put a label on people that the government did not know how to describe in a PC way.

DC fatigue was a clever way of describing how tired we are of Washington’s crap. But that’s so 30 seconds ago. Oops. Strike that last line; surely I can do better …


  1. Occasional LL contributor Gary Bricken used to tell me there are only about a dozen stories to be told in trucking, and our work consists of changing the names every time we write them.
    I'd like to add to your list "DNA" - as in corporate DNA, tho since Mitt Romney says corporations are people, too, maybe that use is allowed; "spot-on" (unless said by Mr. Miyagi: "spot on, spot off); "man Up," unless we are talking about cross-dressing; "copasetic" which is unhip, again; and "pushback" except when talking about adjustable seats. "More belly room" is another one you hear at truck shows a lot. Maybe that should be changed to "bigger lard can"?

  2. Hilarious --- and true at the same time!

    Are we so bored with news that we look at form over content? I'm jes sayin'. (oops).

    Some of the offenders are just comfortable (bad actor) to get a point across clearly -- while others would be impossible to overuse (DC fatigue -- since DC hasn't gotten the memo yet).

    You've got it nailed - keep on writin'!

    Danny in Texas

  3. PC = Pathetically Crummy
    (probably too many silly bulls for most Truckers, eh?)
    DC = District of Calamity--since it's designated itself as a separate entity.
    DC doesn't know what is a memo.

    I sometimes use: "Jest saying", but NEVER jes sayin' and only when implying jocularity.

    Very large instead of ginormous.
    Ginormous appears as another sarah palin term.

    A dozen stories in Trucking with hundreds of books written on Trucking, and they all "sound" the same.

    It's all a wee bit dodgy to me.

    G. Eric Gaither
    Greensboro, NC


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