How and why do particular words come to epitomize certain conditions or situations? Words like:
“regular” to describe healthy bowel movements or standard physical appearance
“challenged” used to replace “retarded,” which was itself adopted to replace “feeble-minded” (until teens started shouting “retard” to hobblers in the streets)
“fighting” in relation to disease or injury; hell, we don’t “fight” diseases, they fight us – and too often win
Why do we say “sorry for your loss” as almost every response to calamity? It may be sincere, but it sounds simply empty of thought.
Calling a statement a “lie” or a person a “liar” almost always reflects that the one making the accusation is him or her self a liar who recognizes a lie precisely because it’s exactly what they would say in the same situation.
Why is it that the origin of the word “cocktail” has not been definitively tracked down?
Why are meaningless, inane phrases printed on condiment containers – “quality guaranteed” on a shaker of grated cheese, “natural mild & mellow” on a bottle of rice vinegar?
Did the now-commonplace phrase “alrighty then” explode directly from Jim Carrey’s toss-off in Ace VenturaI (as I suspect)? I can’t think of a similar example of a movie birthing a universal phrase, except maybe “Here’s looking at you, kid,” from Casablanca. (The phrase existed before, but Casablanca cemented it.)
In general, what determines how new expressions arise, expand to become ingrained and universal? How and when do they replace the argo that came before – and if that doesn’t happen, what determines the effective balance between the new and the old?
Luck? Ideal conditions? Or just one of those things we aren’t meant to know.
Some words/expressions that drive me nuts:
miraculous—used to describe any somewhat unlikely rescue or failure to die when expected
wellness—where and why did this mealy-mouthed replacement for “health” take hold? (It’s weird that reading the term makes me feel…sick.)
transparency—applied as a claim by any corporate or government body when lying about its failure to take action in a dangerous or desperate situation
inappropriate and unacceptable—generic condemnations applied to anything done that the officials in charge don’t approve of, reflecting a vocabulary as thick as a sunbeam or as the intelligence of the speaker
our first priority—used to describe the prime importance of a situation that those in charge never once thought about
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Off topic: Why do those who believe in the reality of extraterrestrial visitors view them as stupid? I mean, they’re invariably pictured as doing such dumb shit as wasting their time on space travel that would take several generations, simply to come here and make silly marks in grain fields or harass Earthling children in schoolyards – while simultaneously trying to elude detection.
Would we really want to meet up with these goofs if they do exist,?