When Words Attack

I’ve been thinking about when words attack. So many words sound the same. Take sediment and sentiment. I work closely with someone who gets buried under words on a regular basis. Here’s an example, when talking about the jail expansion project.

“I know how you feel. I feel the same. My sediment is…”

That’s where I lost the train of thought. Wait a minute. Sediment? We’re talking about soil samples now?

Or the other day when this same person was explaining the process for getting another architect on board.

“We’re going to have to figure this out. Now, I don’t need a cookie footprint…”

Huh? Cookies have footprints? Are they carbon? Or dirty? Can private eyes follow them? Needless to say, I couldn’t keep up after that, either.

“We’re coming after this problem. We’re going to attackle it…”

Okay, now you’re making words up. Though I do like it. It’s a great smaslar of “attack” and “tackle”. Perhaps the NFL could adopt it. I should start an Adopt-A-Word program.

I will admit I like these malapropisms much better than people who repeat the same phrase over and over. I had a former boss of mine who liked to say “at the end of the day” so much, I kept count. In a 2-hour meeting, he said it at least 7 times. I had the hash marks to prove it. Hey, at least I didn’t doodle, unlike my friend. He drew a bang-up calf.

Words help us communicate. Generally, we have to use them to get information across. We make requests. We talk about our feelings (sometimes). We describe situations and sunsets. Unless you’re deaf, the spoken word is numero uno. But words also foul things up. The English language has thousands more words than any other language. Most older languages force you to rely on context to get the nuance of certain terms. Not in our tongue. If you search long enough, you will probably find the perfect designation.

Clichés prove tricky. A lot of them don’t make any sense in our culture anymore. “Getting down to brass tacks” confused a friend of mine. I had to look it up myself. “A stitch in time saves nine”. Yeah, I don’t sew.

“I’m very open. I’m an open book. I wear my heart on my shoulder…”

It makes sense, if you think about it. Wearing your heart on your sleeve, which is how the cliché goes, could be messy. Sleeves, by virtue of their positioning, have a knack of dragging into ink and ketchup, not to mention constantly getting wet. Hearts shouldn’t have to endure that kind of abuse. Hearts on shoulders would be up and out of the fray. Plus, in that position, they could talk to you, whisper in your ear, or shout if need be.

Maybe it’s time for a cliché revolution. Hearts on shoulder, stat! No more brass tacks. Only regular tacks, thank you. And please, keep your sediment to yourself.

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