August 29, 2015


Since I enjoy reading and writing, words are important to me. Intellectually, I know that the concepts attached to words are fluid since there really is not such thing as the Language Police to reign us in for meaning-shift violations.

I get it, but I don’t like it.

With use words suffer entropically, losing a great deal of specifity. (Yes, I did just alter two common words for my own purposes.)

For instance, anxious used to describe a gnawing fear. This meaning lives on in the related form: anxiety. Today, however, when someone says she is anxious for Christmas, she doesn’t mean she has a Christmas phobia, she means she is eager for Christmas to arrive. How did we get from fear to eager?

Another word issue that’s annoying is when people make up a word when we already have a good one. Signage is someone’s self-aggrandizing effort to dress up signs.

We don’t need more words when we already have a good one (word clutter), and we need descriptive words to retain their specific meaning instead of becoming generalized. These are two of my hot-button word-issues.

The most annoying of all, however, is overuse. When words are captured by popular culture, we all lose. Imagination sits on the cliff watching culture lemmings run en masse over the cliff. Why? It’s easier to throw out a word in vogue; no work required. I think those who fall to this practice think they will be seen as something appealing– trendy, in-the-know, novel, and maybe even culturally superior.

In actuality, running into these types of words makes a part of my interest in reading an article die. I find myself working a little harder to read something peppered with throw-away or gratuitous words because I to into editing mode. “What word would work better here?” “What, exactly, is the writer really trying to convey?” I usually give up and move on to a piece more interesting.

Here is my current list of word speed bumps:

  • epic (rarely is something that grand)
  • awesome (if everything is awesome, nothing is)
  • badass (“take note because I’m rebellious, naughty, or reckless,” no, you’re just a lazy writer!)
  • does that make sense? (state your case, don’t ask me, and edit until your point is clear!)
  • out of the box (meant to show originality that is anything but)
  • on the same page (the book writers take this from has run out of pages)
  • passion, as in “I have a passion for _____” (this intense word suggests you would die for your passion; use sparingly– or be prepared to die)
  • literally (verbatim, not to a great extent)
  • absolutely (not a term of agreement, but, well, an absolute!)

Ah…. For now I can rest with this rant purged from my mind.

Until I find another one!



  1. Cathy — Byron Spradlin .. Thanks for putting game on your blog list. (Or maybe I did it–ha). Great work.

    One suggestion: I’d put your name, Cathy Howie, not just Ordinary Creativity, on your email title — I almost deleted it, because I did not recognize “ordinary creativity.” Just my two cents.

    Great to have you guys at the NASHVILLE GATHERING. So glad even to get a bit of catch-up. Please keep me posted.


    Byron Rev. Dr. Byron Spradlin President Artists in Christian Testimony Intl … A ministry & missions sending board …. We exist to Mobilize & Equip artistic and innovative ministers and missionaries for Christian work around the world … cell 615-300-3143 email Byron@ACTinternational.org web http://www.ACTMusicGroup.org web http://www.ACTinternational.org


    • Great to hear from you, Byron! Thanks for the encouragement. We enjoyed our time with you as well!

      (I just checked all the admin settings and don’t see where I can change the email “from” field unless I change the blog name. I’ll keep looking, though.)

      Blessings– cathy

  2. […] because everyone is creative « Word […]

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