Blast those pesky words of the year

words-bubble-collage-word-of-the-year-new

As an achievement-driven checklist junkie, I’ve long since punted on making New Year’s resolutions. These unnervingly eager declarations are a death trap for those of us planners who’re strong on the start-up and weak on the follow-through. January gets me bursting with fresh ideas and gleaming ideals, then by March I’ve melted into a puddle of guttered expectations. So I’ve learned to take a hard pass on any annual pledges for self-improvement and opted to live my life free from additional regrets and pressures beyond the standard Perfectionist Anxiety Quota.

A newish New Year’s practice buzzed about within Christian subculture today is upping the ante on spiritual weightiness while minimizing the verbiage of gushing “The Best Me I Can Be” resolutions. Face value, the activity sounds appealing, but it carries the potential for guilt infliction as well as a high annoyance factor that predisposes me to poke a little fun at it.

I’m talking about those infernal words of the year people have been posting effusively about ever since January 1st. Also known as #oneword, and not to be confused with the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year (which for 2016 was “Dumpster fire” – how awesome/accurate is that?), this exercise involves asking God to give you a word that will help you grow in your faith and awaken to His presence during the next 365 days.

Considering that I’m a writer, editor, and self-avowed word nerd, I should be all over this trend. People are getting excited about the English language? Huzzah! Better yet, the whole goal of this practice is to know Jesus more, so it’s gotta be golden, right? No chance of exaggeration or misapplication here. *stated with a holy wink*

Notwithstanding these positives, the cynic in me burns to point out the pitfalls of the word of the year undertaking. For starters, how does one petition the Lord for their one word? Is it predestined? Do you receive a prophetic vision? Must you complete a mystical 12-step process to unveil it? If so, count me out; ain’t got time for that when there’re so many “snow day fun” pics to like on Instagram.

What if you ask, but do not receive a word from God? Is it because you lacked faith? Or could He have a higher purpose in withholding a word – perhaps to instead give you AN ENTIRE SENTENCE? And might other believers shun you for this glaring deficiency in your walk? Imagine having to confess this as you join a new Christian ladies’ group: “Hello, and welcome! What is your word of the year? You don’t have one?! Oh, that’s fine, you can go have a seat over there.”

What if you ask and do receive a word, and it’s kinda bizarre? For example, “bumfuzzled.” Or, what if your word was “think”? Would you honestly think about “think” all year long? How meta of you. My concern is that the verbal barrage of two little boys’ separate nonstop monologues might drown out the Lord’s still, small voice and cause me to mistakenly choose a word deriving from the potty vernacular.

All joking and making light of spiritual matters aside, I have several friends whom I respect who participate in this custom and find great value in doing so. As another plus, one of the foremost proponents of one word selection is Margaret Feinberg, an author I enjoy and appreciate for her concept of God’s “Sacred Echo” reverberating throughout the everyday moments of our lives.

So truthfully, I don’t have any legitimate problem with identifying and focusing on a word of the year, and commend others for their commitment to enlivening their faith and seeking Jesus in a specific, thoughtful way.

As I mentioned at the outset, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions because I struggle seeing them through to the end. With the word of the year ritual, I struggle narrowing my scope to a single word and contemplating such a wide swath of time as the calendar year. I’m not a big picture person, so please never ask me to vision cast my life beyond my kid’s next soccer practice.

If I forced myself to condense the past year into a couple major themes God highlighted and repeated at varying times, I’d make a short list: wisdom, joy, surrender, humility.

I don’t know what words or themes He has in store for me in 2017, nor do I feel compelled to spend awhile figuring that out. In my 30ish years of life, He has proven time and time again that He will make known whatever new ideas or renewed perspectives or convicting truths He wants me to realize according to His schedule, not mine – which, to my unending surprise, turns out to be the right way to go, every time.

Maybe the Lord will further surprise/tease me by doing some marvelous work that I’ve previously scoffed at – in this case, giving me one word for the whole year. I just hope He doesn’t call me to make a resolution to throw out my checklists.

Cyberslang rant #1

family-guy-meme-for-cyber-slang-rant

While the Internet has been great for enabling communication, aggregating information, and allowing us to self-diagnose a variety of ailments via Dr. Google, it has severely corrupted the English language. Influenced by texting chatspeak and the one-liner-rama known as Twitter, our everyday speech now contains jargon that violates all kinds of grammatical rules, flaunting syntactic delinquency and promoting verbal idiocy.

I admit to using a number of modern idioms in my posts, but some I simply cannot stand. The Spirit of Perfectionism compels me to advocate for more articulate, comprehensible dialogue by beating down ridiculous lingo.

For this first round, I’m going full John Wick puppy rampage on three trends that are successfully making the world a dumber place.

Let the editorial bloodbath begin.

Make. It. Stop.
I used to think excess exclamation mark usage was one of the most egregious stylistic offenses a person could commit. Sure, it’s tolerable in enthusiastic text messages to your friend about the One Direction boyfriend Tee you just snapped up at a thrift store, but in a work email? “Jennifer! Our numbers are down! I uploaded the proofs to Dropbox! When are you sending your TPS reports!” Total !nsanity.

Somehow, at some point recently, for no good reason whatsoever, the exclamatory frenzy gave way to another equally atrocious, linguistically laborious trend that is So. Freakin’. Annoying.

Yeah, I typed out all three of those dang periods, hating myself with every keystroke.

Who the heck got so infatuated with a typographical symbol designed to mark the end of a declarative sentence that they up and made it trendy to use when separating short and – let’s face it – usually simple-minded words?

Back in journalism school, we were taught to use punctuation marks sparingly to conserve precious print space, hence the AP style’s rejection of the Oxford comma. This period fetish is yet another way the Internet has screwed over the journalism profession and made us all highly informed yet stupid as muck.

As a blogger with a journalist background, it behooves me to warn you that period binging is a slippery slope. Right now, it’s cool to use three periods, but who’s to stop that from increasing to four, then eight, then 15? And how soon before it creeps into single words and makes our language even more dis.joint.ed.?

During this election season, I think we should launch a different, more productive campaign to Make Sentences Coherent Again and put the kibosh on this choppy, stunted speech pattern. Let’s find other ways to convey emphasis, such as using italics or underlining – something besides periods. Or, here’s an idea: Quit talking like a hipster. Bam! Problem solved.

Why is ‘thing’ a thing?
Now this is just embarrassing. Have we all grown so empty-headed as a society that we can think of no greater word for – well, anything – besides “thing”?

“It’s kinda my thing.”
“I want all the things.”
“I wish I had a thing.”

It might’ve been funny the first, maybe even the second time someone used this trivial word in a catchall type of way. But today, it has become an epidemic, infecting normal adult conversations from soccer mom chitchat to coffee shop discourse to Bible study discussion – even pseudo-intellectual TED talks.

What if – God forbid – someone starts combining this ambiguity-perpetuating buzzword with other inane expressions? Our language would become completely meaningless.

“Just sayin’ a thing.”
“Today be like things.”
“WHAAAAAT thing.”

This is middle school sexual innuendo-level humor, people. There’s a better way to say stuff. Lemme introduce you to a neat resource that’s handy for all sorts of items – like I just swapped out the potential usage of “things” with the ordinary yet less brain-insulting “items.”

It’s called a thesaurus, located under Tools in Microsoft Word, and also available for your convenience online at sites such as Merriam Webster. Let these resources help you find synonyms to build a stronger vocabulary beyond a single syllable word you learned as a toddler.

Get over this absurd addiction to “things” and start talking smarter than a stoner.

#Ihatehashtags
Yea, I know I’m a hypocrite when it comes to this fad. Yet at the end of the day, aren’t we all hypocrites who hate Wal-Mart but shop there anyways?

Hypocrites shop at WalMartnew

The way I see it, hashtags are a necessary evil if you want to gain new followers on social media. But do the pros of using them always outweigh the cons of exasperating readers to the same level of annoyance induced by people who scrape their forks against their teeth?

On a pleasant note, hashtags can be clever and help people connect. On a practical note, they are difficult to read and come straight from the fourth level of linguistic hell reserved for group text messages and Kanye West quotes.

For your origin story of the day, the now-mighty # symbol has been known as the number sign, the pound sign (not to be confused with the British £ sign), a sharp in a musical context, and the sci-fi-sounding “octothorpe” – supposedly created by an employee of Bell Laboratories in the 1960s in honor of U.S. athlete Jim Thorpe.

Not sure whose bright idea it was to take the perfectly decent octothorpe and warp it into a mark looping a word or phrase to a broader online conversation on a designated topic. I’d say the inventor should be shackled to a stockade shaped like that wretched symbol of their own making, but it’s probably not their fault that social media users exploit it so profusely.

If you must use hashtags to promote your upcycled pop can Christmas wreath etsy shop or whatever, at least take a minimalist approach. A thought to ponder: When you have to scroll more than three times through the hashtag list on your Instagram post, you’ve probably ODed on tagging. Ain’t nobody got time to read through all that gibberish.

As a reluctant participant in this trend, I’m committed to reporting and rebuking hashtag abuse. We must stand up to reckless tagging of insignificant words and bizarre combinations of wordsjumbledtogether before we begin audibly speaking other symbols before phrases just to sound relevant and cool, as in: “Asterisk, this post is lit.”