July 10th, 2012

Word I Irrationally Despise

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a grammar or usage rant here at Rose-coloured, the reasons being (a) people hate them and (b) I’ve calmed down. I think the calming was due in large part to my brief stint teaching in high schools a couple years back. There’s nothing like being exposed to young people on a regular basis to convince you you are not as smart as you think you are. Also, the youths do cool stuff with language, and I’ve grown to appreciate it more–just yesterday, I was expounding on how interesting it is when they drop the “m” in random and make it a noun–“That guy is such a rando!” Useful, no?

Also, on the part (a) front, those rants just made me sound bitchy and pedantic, and we could all do with a bit less of that, I think.

Well as I’m doing dissolving my prejudices against certain types of language, there are some things that are technically correct that I still CAN NOT DEAL WITH. Do you have those? Words or turns of phrase that you irrationally despise, though they actually do just fine at conveying what they are meant to convey? I had a colleague who loathed the word “amalogomate” because “it sounds like bugs having sex.” You can’t really argue with that.

My most loathed word is the seemingly innocuous “sip.” I think it sounds disgusting, I think people use it to be fey or sexy, and the alleged sexiness is in itself disgusting, or else because they don’t know how to conjugate the word “drink” (that’s another post, however, the sort of post I don’t write anymore, allegedly). Generally I think “sip” is the worst word in the world. Grr. Blech.

Let’s try to get to the root of the problem. What does “sip” actually mean, anyway–how is it different from “drink”? Well, Canadian Oxford says it meant “to drink in one or more small amounts.” Whereas drink just means any amount. But for practical purposes, in prose writing, is there really any difference between, “He nodded, sipped some coffee, and began to speak,” and “He nodded, drank some coffee, and began to speak”? Well, the first one sounds ickier, but otherwise I feel they are identical. No one is going to think he slammed down the whole cup without the nuance of “sip” are they?

I don’t think I ever liked this word, but I can pinpoint where it all fell apart completely–the use, in a romance novel, of the phrase “sipping kisses.” I believe this is supposed to imply a series of small kisses, but to me it sounds like drinking saliva or somehow liquifying the other’s face. It’s just the worst thing ever. WORST THING EVER.

So what’s your most loathed word?

5 Responses to “Word I Irrationally Despise”

  • Scott Watson says:

    I always viewed sip as a hesitant form of drink. So you can sip from a hot drink as you wait for it to cool (if you don’t like hot drink) versus taking a small drink, where you are not hesistating, you are just not that thirsty.

    I have also heard sip used to convey the sense that to have more will permanent change you (Her volunteering at the housing association gave Selene a sip from the chalice of power. A rich taste of things being done that would consume her life if she was not careful, as all hobbies are prone to do).

    I don’t know if I loath words so much as word concepts. “Common sense”, “frankly”, “simply put”,and “the facts of the matter” are word phrases that come to mind.


  • Gillian says:

    I didn’t mind sip until you broke down sipping kisses there at the end… then I was ill.
    I hate chuckle. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I hate chortle only slightly less. Let us laugh, or giggle or fall about with hilarity, but I will leave the room or smash things if people insist on chortling, or, god forbid, chuckling.
    Thank you. I feel much better now!

  • treeleaning says:

    I didn’t mind sip either until your slobber kisses description. Now the word is poison!

    My most hated word is puce. What kind of word is that for a very nice colour? It sounds like watery puke. So, even though I remember it is a colour, I always mistakenly think it is some kind of gross, phlegmy, green. It doesn’t help that it rhymes with chartreuse which actually is greenish, but which I think of as being a rosy purple colour – maybe because it sounds like some kind of cherry wine.

    I’d be happier if puce could be green and chartreuse could be the purple colour.

  • Laura Boudreau says:

    >I’d be happier if puce could be green and chartreuse could be the purple colour.

    For a long, long time, I thought this was the way of things. It really was better.

  • Rebecca says:

    Scott, you make some good points–there is nuance in sip. I think the nuance is pretty much lost in my word-rage, though. Still, we shouldn’t rewrite the language just for me (I guess).

    Gillian, yes, chortle is repellant. Chuckle doesn’t upset me that much, I still would never use it in a sentence unless ordered to.

    Treeleaning, embarrassingly, I actually had to go look up puce because I didn’t know what colour it was. For anyone reading this who is similarly lame, here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puce You’re write, it is a pretty colour–unfairly saddled with a dreadful name!!

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