Downtown View:Words To Get Rid Of

By Karen Cord Taylor

This week is going to be pretty exciting. First, we’ll learn how many Republicans are packing guns at their convention. And, mercifully, we’ll also start to get rid of a dreadful word.

The word is “presumptive.” We must endure that word every time Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is mentioned. We barely heard the word before May 4. The Republican convention ends this week. We’ll get rid of presumptive before Trump’s name, even if we don’t get rid of Trump.

After July 28, we won’t have to attach it to Hillary either. She’ll have accepted Bernie’s goals—she basically agrees with them, and then everyone will drop presumptive before her name too.

What a break for the rest of us.

We’re not going to get rid of the trendy word “agency” so fast. People use it like this: “You have agency over your umbrella.” In other words, you can decide what to do with it. Wikipedia defines the word as “the capacity of an entity . . . to act in any given environment” or “human agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices.” It is being used increasingly as a morally uplifting term—sort of. It is fashionable in some quarters. Its usage in this way comes from sociology and philosophy. It has become part of the new jargon, replacing a simple sentence such as “You can decide whether to open your umbrella or keep it shut.”

It creeps me out.

Other tired words that have to go are “Boomers” and Millennials.” Boomers are supposedly between about 52 and 69 years of age. They are supposed to share many traits—entitlement, good education, high expectation, good jobs, an ease when they are feeding off the public trough to the detriment of those younger than they.

Maybe. But thinking of all the people you know who are those ages, you wonder if sociology and the media, the two entities who seem to be in cahoots over the word, have any idea of the people they are actually describing.

For one, Boomers seem to be white people. They seem to come from the cities, not the dying rural areas in the Midwest and the Plains states. I’m betting Boomers don’t live in West Virginia.

And “Millennials” is equally as annoying. I’m never sure who Millennials are. We are building micro-apartments for Millennials, say real estate developers and BRA-types. But if they are people who became adults around the year 2000, as Wikipedia says, aren’t we a bit late? Millennials, now in their mid-30s, probably now have kids and need bigger places.

But we may not even need the term any more. British Millennials, who are working all over Europe, just got screwed by their older compatriots. Maybe they’ll be called “Returnees” from now on. (And, by the way, according to some reports, it was the Boomers who took away Europe from the Millennials.)

It’s hard to imagine that 30 years from now either of these terms will have resonance, much less be remembered.

“Bug out” is also being used weirdly. “We need to bug out of here,” used to be a phrase I’d hear from time to time. Now it is being used among survivalists, a nutty group of people who enjoy thinking about preparing for Armageddon, which seems to energize them. For no reason, I get survivalist messages in my spam folder. Finally I decided to look at one.

I found out that a bug-out bag holds the essentials you’ll need, in a “without rule of law situation,” which the promoters seemed to relish. They describe the items with great reverence. Water, warm clothing, a flashlight, matches, a first-aid kit, a pot for cooking. Sounds pretty obvious. Duh.

I’m wondering what will happen to the word “rigged” after this election season. Our own senator, Elizabeth Warren, used it to great advantage over the past couple of years. Now Donald Trump has co-opted it. Considering how hostile the two are to one another, I’m thinking she might come up with a new word to describe how middle class Americans have been scammed.

A couple of trendy words and phrases are worth keeping. One was introduced to America by Alyn Smith, a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland, which backed the Remain camp in the recent Brexit (get rid of that too now) vote. “The people who have committed themselves to leave will crawl across glass to get to the polling stations,” he lamented, “and on the Remain side it’s much more, ‘Why are we doing this?’ ”

 “Crawl across glass” is wonderfully evocative of shards sticking up and bleeding bodies. It’s a perfect metaphor.

Another cliché I want to keep is “rocket science,” as in “washing dishes is not rocket science.” Except one day a few years ago, the U.S. sent off a high tech missile over the Pacific. It sputtered out. (Sounds like North Korea, but it wasn’t.) The Air Force general had a good excuse. “Well, it is rocket science, you know.” Thank you, General, for rescuing that phrase.

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