There are a few words I studiously avoid, both in talk and type. Normally when anybody uses them in conversations or correspondences, my alarm bells go off and I tend to discount and drift away from the messages.
No, I’m not talking about cuss words, which truthfully are some of the most descriptive. I’m speaking of drop-dead absolutes such as “always” or “never,” a couple of common examples.
I’ve just never been a big fan of absolutes, which means more than a few philosophers believe that makes me “wishy-washy” by extrapolation. I couldn’t care less and leave weighty esoteric concepts relating to absolute truths and lies and realities, religions and good and evil to those deep thinkers.
My ocean of interest is very much shallower as you would probably suspect. I find degrees of shading in most things. And I believe what anybody doesn’t know generally outweighs what they do know or think they know.
Given my avoidance of absolutes, whenever a client asks if something is possible, my default answer is that about anything is possible if it doesn’t suspend immutable laws of physics or mathematics. Said another way, there are few things impossible.
You may think that silly on the surface since everybody intuitively knows all answers contain implied qualifiers such as “generally” or “normally.” But it’s my habit to take questions literally, which probably irritates many to no end.
When I get that “mad scientist” windblown look, my wife Ann captures my head with comb and scissors. Invariably the next day I’ll hear the same rhetorical question repeated, “Get a haircut?” My response to the literal question, “Nope, I got them all cut.”
Politicians and vocabulary don’t mix. Meanings of words disappear when they come out of their mouths. You can’t take what they say literally because it can change around however the polling winds blow.
Speaking of verbal diarrhea attacks, I hate it when I hear pundits use “bottom line” to impart finality to what they’re saying. It stinks.
You’d think that term wouldn’t bother an accountant, but in measuring actions and reactions it’s completely useless. There are often footnotes below the bottom line. Duh.
Such dogmatic bloviating offends my intelligence as it should yours. Reality is a collection of hues, and depending which ones you bring together, about any picture can be fashioned.
I like writing this column but I’m not a “writer” in the literary sense. However, I do have a decent vocabulary, which gives me some choices of shading and nuance when putting ideas or thoughts on paper.
Years ago we subscribed to the “Readers Digest” and a regular feature was words and their meanings. It was a section called “It Pays To Increase Your Word Power.”
I wonder where kids today find new words to add to their toolboxes. Hopefully it’s not from their music and certainly not from their texting lexicon.
Based upon young people’s TV interviews or overheard conversation fragments in restaurants, if the word “like” disappeared, many of them would instantly become mutes.
Like, why do they say the same word over and over?
Otis Gardner’s column appears here weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.