Let’s Eliminate these Adjectives

(originally published 11/28/2006)

More academic blah here.

I’m tired of these words, or more specifically their contemporary connotations:

1) Eclectic: it’s hard for me to take this adj. for anything but a slur, evoking diletattantish ‘jack-of-all-trades’ pretentions. It’s a perfect word for the wishy-washy, ultimately Western-based ‘World Music’ and ‘World Culture’ lauded by NPR imbeciles. Or for describing a Pat Metheny album with a guest appearance by some DJ or dancer or something (oh shoot! crazy!)

2) Funky: Okay, I’m hardly Catfish from the JBs or nothing, but I wanna suggest that we refrain from describing dress shops, restaurants, interior decoration or lifestyles* as ‘funky.’ Actually, I’ll go so far as saying we should stop describing non-funk music (including disco, soul, r+b and other music made by traditionally ‘funky’ people, who are inevitably also ‘black’ people) as funky. Raenie could probably take me to task on this, knowing much more about these genres than me. But I wanna suggest we don’t cry ‘funky’ for every wah pedal or slap bass we hear.

3) Surreal: I think this one speaks for itself. We should also include ‘surreal”s overworked brother ‘Kafkaesque’ in the mix.

Any more suggestions? Objections? I’m trying to get some interaction outta you people. Ben, Raenie and Will are carrying a lotta weight these days over at the poisonshake.

* In what’s close to a marxist moralist aside during the conclusion of Postmodernism, Jameson cites discourse of ‘lifestyle’ and ‘sexual orientation’ as only possible under ‘late capitalist’ (sic) relations of production and pomo culture. He’s funny and he’s right, I think.


36 Responses to “Let’s Eliminate these Adjectives”

  1. Wilbro Says:

    Can I make a motion for the phrase “inextricably intertwined” to join this list? I am partly guilty of deploying this one on far too many undergraduate papers.

  2. nuge Says:

    How about any adjective beginning in neo-

  3. andrew schmidt Says:

    ‘intense’ was banned from the Sewanee vocab scene for a while in 2002-2003.

  4. lexdexter Says:


    i love the idea of the ‘sewanee vocab scene.’ ha! i remember a period where it seemed like our robert couldn’t make it through a sentence without describing something as ‘intense.’ i find myself following suit to this day.

    and by the way, sorry friction dip had to go cuz some philosopher-nub is worried about protecting the sewanee brand. that’s right up there with wanting to change the ‘culture’ of our zeta!

    anywho, yours was clearly the most ‘pigfuck’ of the blogs in our circle, and well-written to boot.

  5. andrew schmidt Says:

    Thanks, sir. I’ll have a new blog soon. I need to work on some themes. It wasn’t that Dr. P wanted me to delete the blog– i just freaked out when i learned that he knew i had a blog. i don’t think he ever viewed it, though.
    So, i did i search on blogger.com for the word “sewanee” and even your recent post came up. does blogger own wordpress?

  6. Wilbro Says:

    Ah, “intense.” Thanks for reminding me, Andrew, of this little epoch in our Sewanee years. I definitely heard the word enough to render it entirely meaningless, and may be guilty on all counts of co-opting it into my own vernacular at the time. I’m glad it’s gone. It essentially exploded itself through acute overuse/abuse…Are you starting a new blog anytime soon, Andrew? I, too, am disappointed in its absence – it was my “go-to” blog for all things of relevance on YouTube.com – start a new one. One that the philosophy department doesn’t know about. We gotta “change the culture” here. Otherwise, we’d feel “impotent…like we can’t defend ourselves.” What a buncha donchos these guys are.

  7. Elvira Says:

    Has anyone seen the Squid and the Whale? There’s a part where the protagonist/teenage boy describes the Metamorphosis (which he hasn’t read) as Kafkaesque. His girlfriend responds with a puzzled and unimpressed expression that it was written by Franz Kafka. Should one really call that Kafkaesque?

    Some words I’d like to eliminate: “white trash” and “random” (at least as the latter is so often used.)

  8. lexdexter Says:

    fuck yeah, elvira!
    with white trash, i’d like to lose ‘redneck,’ please.

    and yeah, i get you on ‘random.’
    people are real willy-nilly about ‘blatant,’ too.

  9. Mr. Random Says:

    Yeah. Everytime someone says “random,” I jump and look around. “What?!” Stop it!!

  10. treadinguponthetigerstail Says:

    I remember Austin L. telling me once that he was going to a lexicographical study of LCA. I think the subtext was “you people are fucking ridiculous.”

    “Ridiculous” and “absurd” shouldn’t necessarily be removed from use, but they need to be let to rest every once and awhile. Especially when the object in question isn’t that ridiculous or absurd.

  11. Barry Says:

    I’ll nominate “nonissue.” It a word that only people on coke-benders should be allowed to use.

  12. lexdexter Says:

    thread. of. the. week. keep it coming. – p
    ps – i think i have an ‘absurd’ problem, me.

  13. lexdexter Says:

    oops, i meant ‘ridiculous’ problem. i think i’m good on ‘absurd.’

  14. lexdexter Says:

    and yeah, mr. random, i don’t think unexpected (or anomalous, even) qualifies as ‘random.’ that shit shames your name. – p

  15. minx Says:

    Barry – thanks for the laugh. I needed that.

    How about the word “lash” or “lashed” in reference to hurricanes hitting the coast? Used almost every time in the news.

    Although this isn’t a vocabulary word, I hate it when people who know very little about the Holocaust or the Nazis use either as an example in some sort of discussion, as in, “Yeah, well what about the Nazis?” I feel like people have complained about this before.

    Other possible vocab no-no’s rendered meaningless by sloppyness or overuse: stuff, diverse, diversity, interactive, community, multicultural, family values.

  16. meredith Says:

    here are mine, heavily driven by too much time spent in b-school and union staff mtgs:

    “leverage” (not as in raise capital by taking on debt, but as in the constant use by the business community tyring to sound sophisticated: “we leveraged portland’s terrific public transporation system to get to the baseball game.”)
    “take aways”

  17. coffeeblackandcigarettes Says:

    Genius used to describe something that we did not think of.
    Rocks (sort of like funky) used to describe something we like.
    Epic used to describe something that merely rocks.
    Psych used to describe confusion or trickery.
    Excellent used to describe something that is run-of-the-mill.
    Whicked used in place of very.
    Any and all hip hop lingo usage by non-hip hop culture.
    Freaky used to describe something good.
    Biblical used to exagerate scale.
    I could go on forever.

  18. Elvira Says:

    I’d like to come back in with the misuse of “ignorant” or even “ironic,” itself.

    A couple of words that get tossed around in interesting ways a bit too often in my teaching cirlces are “holding” and “carrying,” as in taking responsibilty for, making sure the job gets done. Being in a non-hierarchical, unconventional, share-the-load kind of atmosphere, one frequently hears something like the following:
    “What are the plans for such and such event?” “Hmmm… I don’t know. Whose carrying that?” or
    “Who is willing to hold this issue?” etc.

    Gets to be a bit much.

  19. km Says:

    tho’ i’ve heard a good case against “problematic,” I’d prefer to avoid marking off particular words and, instead, focus on barring particular word users from using particular words or, better yet, particular parts of speech. Stuart Scott and adjectives come to mind.

    does the fact that I can almost hear him saying “that’s ridunculous” in response mean I watch too much espn?

  20. frank Says:

    The popularity of “eco” and “green” never cease to annoy – i love this topic – ditto on “diversity” ben

  21. David Says:

    This isn’t a word, but I really hate it when people put words in quotation marks that have no business being in quotation marks. Like when restaurants have signs that say

    We’re “Open”

    as if they’re being ironic and aren’t really open.

  22. Ben Says:

    This is off the topic, but if I am describing the grade that a student received on a test, do I use quotation marks, as in a “B”?

  23. Barry Says:

    Add “ironic” to the list, as in my listening to Bread, Larry Gatlin, and/or Steely Dan is ironic.

    This bugs me because its often hifalutin usage.

    Isn’t it ironic that David just dissed quotes, and used the word ironic, while I just dissed ironic and put it in quotes? Maybe so….maybe so.

    Pat, what are doing on Saturday ~nightish?

  24. m. potato Says:

    two words -and or- phrases that make me feel as if i am being lectured by an undereducated, motivational speaker who recieved his/her degree from an online university whilst speaking from behind a clear plexiglass podium are:

    (drumroll please)

    “paradigm shift” & “units”

    game of trust anyone?!!!

  25. lexdexter Says:

    ‘paradigm shift,’ jesus! i’ve been trying to use ‘paradigmatic’ lately, ‘feeling like a fool. – p

  26. km Says:

    so long as the speaker cites Thomas Kuhn, “paradigm shift” is OK in my book.

    no Kuhn reference=deal breaker.

    so long as it is in reference to Randy Johnson, “unit” is also ok.

    not in conjunction with “The Big…”=deal breaker.

  27. m. potato Says:

    sorry pj, hope that wasn’t a bit harsh…how about words that people think should be dumped back into the colloquial lexicon? it may be a bit of a step back in time, but i’ve been trying to bring back the slanderous “dick-smack”. for some reason i find it REALLY satisfying.

  28. Ninja Says:

    If you like this post, I’d like you to think about and respond to the most recent post here 😉 http://horsesoup.blogspot.com/.


  29. wendy--g Says:

    Wow not being in grad school myself I haven’t had to deal with most of these particular word overdoses. Funny hunh. Still it seems you have tapped into a strong vein here. Most of the grads I hang with now are prone to dip into the quantiod lexicon but there is little danger of me picking any of that up and running with it. So I was unaware of the rampid use of funky, maybe its an Iowa thing…

    Also I thought of you when I was having this delightfully (insert appropriate adjective because all I can think of is ‘ironic’) conversation with a first year poli-sci grad student who was explaining to me the newest move in philosophy and PS to critique the modern.

  30. wendy Says:

    of course I probably meant rampant and not rampid, whatever that means. Maybe that is the solution to these word abuses… I mean I have been making up words for years. Is that better or worse than using real words incorrectly?

  31. m. potato Says:

    this one probably goes without saying, but ANY word that substitues the letters ph for f (i.e.-PHUNKY, PHAT, PHISH…we’ve all seen numurous examples). it seems as if that pesky little trend keeps holding on…i don’t get it.

  32. lexdexter Says:

    yr right, david. that shit won’t die. – p

  33. coffeeblackandcigarettes Says:

    Phuckin’-“A” right it won’t die.

  34. jordan Says:

    Seeing “Subvert the dominant paradigm” graffitied on a bathroom stall in Asheville made me not want to return for a long time.

  35. lips picks vol. 1 « The PrisonShip Says:

    […] who could (/would dare) forget the let’s eliminate these adjectives thread, what with its 35 comments? Posted in […]

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