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Language and the overuse of adjectives

Earlier this week, prior to boarding a flight to Dallas the American Airlines staff member made an announcement about the flight and made the comment to all passengers in the boarding area that the flight was “really full”. It is a phrase I have heard said many times; describing a condition with the wasteful use of an adjective. Let’s be clear, the flight is either full or it isn’t. Right?

I realize I am a logical person and every day I deal in absolutes. My concern is that as a society we overuse words and thereby reduce the efficiency of our language. Have you heard someone say “that was really really awesome” or “OMG, that was amazing and so rediciously sensational.” Well maybe the last one is a long shot. Oh, and don’t get me started on the overuse of the word ‘like’.

Speaking of the word awesome, take six minutes out of your day and check out this TED talk by Jill Shargaa on language and the use of the word “awesome” (Jill Shargaa: Please, please, people. Let’s put the ‘awe’ back in ‘awesome’). It is a funny talk (yes really) and it epitomizes how we choose the wrong words and over emphasize words when they are unnecessary.

A plane is either going to be full or not full. All seats are taken taken or empty. Language is such an important tool to communicate and we have become inefficient in the way we go about it.

Note: I have said this before however always worth a mention … we disembark a plane not deplane a plane.

3 Responses to :
Language and the overuse of adjectives

  1. Dan Naumann says:

    What a superlative and articulate oration on the unnecessary elasticity of our native English language.
    Sorry, couldn’t resist :p

    I will disagree on a few points. Firstly I don’t think language needs to be efficient, at least not as a rule. Sometimes it does, but not usually. I would also hate to see the beauty of colourful language lost to efficiency. Novels would be boring and only 4 pages long 🙂

    Secondly I am in total favour of making up new words. I find it completely unfair that Shakespeare was allowed to invent dozens of new words, but I can’t. Injustice. I will say however that there is no need to invent a new word one already exists, such as in your ‘disembark’ example.

    1. brevell says:

      Language doesn’t need to be efficient when, to your point, it is colorful and used in an elegant fashion; especially when used in fiction to describe something in detail. Yet, when I’m speaking to someone that insert’s the word ‘like’ into the same sentence at least 4 – 5 times is at the opposite end of my spectrum. In an example I posted above, I feel we are treating people like they are dumb by using too many adjectives. Either the plane is full or it isn’t.

    2. brevell says:

      And thanks for commenting dude, nice to know someone is reading this stuff! 🙂

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