The Logo File
You may have noticed: I like words. I use them practically every day. And nothing pleases me more (hyperbole) than a clever neologism. (Note to cruciverbalizers: this does NOT constitute a license to make up any old thing just because it fits in the crossword grid.) I even collect words, like some people collect stamps or coins.
The Laxicon, a sloppily organized compendium of words formed by adding a letter (SUMICIDE: deliberately throwing oneself beneath a large Japanese wrestler), subtracting one (GYNASIUM: a health spa for women only), or changing one letter (ABANUENSIS: an assistant who runs off and leaves you in the lurch) from an existing word, is upwards of 1000 entries. If you would like to contribute, feel free to send in your words and letters.
Eventually, it would be fun to publish an Illuminated Laxicon—I can see the drawing illustrating “sumicide,” can’t you? Unfortunately, publishers won’t talk to me, so I am sitting in the literary equivalent of Schwab’s Drugstore, waiting to be discovered. If you know any publishers, give ‘em my e-mail address.
But there are some words that should have been laughed out of the lexicon (the real one) the moment they first appeared in public. It’s harder to get rid of them once they’re established, kind of like head lice. But it’s definitely worth the effort. I’m talking about words like PRE-OWNED. Whatever happened to “used?” Would you trust a “pre-owned car salesman?” Besides, even if “pre-owned” were allowed to exist, shouldn’t it mean “new”?
GAMING is another one, used only in commercials: it sounds so much more jolly and wholesome than “gambling,” don’t you think?
And what’s up with FITNESS WATER? Excuse me? Fitness water? If your shirt is too big, can you wash it in fitness water? But not only did that nonsense phrase slip into the language unmolested, it brought along its illegitimate half-brother, the new PROTEIN WATER. Water may be protean–it can take many forms, like ice or steam—but protein water has no place in my dictionary. Or anywhere else. VITAMIN WATER? LIFE WATER???
While we’re at it, how about a moratorium on any word that begins with “MEGA-“ or ends with “-GATE?”
And I’d like to see the media quit using FLAWED to refer to suspect elections like those in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Pakistan (oh, wait, that one’s been postponed), and that upcoming circus in Russia known as “Put In Medvedev.” The word you’re looking for is, um, let’s see, sounds like—oh, yes, “fraud.”
SHORTFALL is another of my personal favorites, a euphemism for impending disaster. It may be useful if you are talking about Tarzan missing the vine, but I say leave it out of discussions about the budget.
KWANZAA—now there’s a silly word. It started out life as “kwanza” (Swahili for “first”). Since the celebration refers to seven principles, it’s inventor wanted a word with seven letters so he just tacked another “a” on the end. Why is that better than “kkwanza?” I have no beef with the invention of a whole new holiday, but if you want a seven-letter name, surely there are plenty of real words to choose from. Christians honor (in theory) ten commandments, but nobody calls it Christmass.
CIA/military terms like RENDITION and COLLATERAL DAMAGE are perfectly good words that have been dragged into the bad part of town and tortured into unseemly applications, but they got me thinking about this in the first place. There are plenty of others, but I’ve gone on long enough. Which is to say, I can’t think of any more off hand. However, I am always open to suggestions; do you have any favorites?