“We are broadcasting,” said the crew from ESPN, “from the iconic top of the Green Monster in iconic Fenway Park,” by which they were referring to the broadcast booth set on top of the tall green wall in the stadium’s left field., a.k.a, the left field wall.

Fenway might even be iconic if by that you mean the “oldest baseball stadium in the U.S.,” but I don’t think iconic means that. This was the actual moment I realized I never wanted to hear anyone say “iconic” about anything again. Ever. I’d had it with the word.

Even when it’s relevant. Even if it is spelled correctly and regardless of context. The world has become overly iconic and used to mean anything and everything which essentially means it means nothing.

Anything which means everything means nothing.
That includes “iconic.” Especially “iconic.”

Because everything can’t be iconic. It’s an oxymoron.

Word overuse started as a TV phenomenon and has continued with a lot of help from social media. It started with … I don’t know … cool?Β  Groovy?

It gathered energy with “awesome” and “totally awesome.” Is there a difference? If “awesome” means “striking awe into a viewer,” how is “totally awesome” more awesome than one, single “awesome”?

Meanwhile, word overuse went in hysterical overdrive when all female persons who were remotely well-known became a “Diva.”

Now, the word is iconic.

What happened to the rest of the language? Surely there are other synonyms which could be used?

Suggested alternatives include:

Those are more than enough words to give one reason to ponder word usage. I have a “thing” wherein I won’t intentionally use the same word or even two versions of the same word in one paragraph. I sometimes do it accidentally, but if I notice, I’ll go back and change a word.

There are few words in English for which there is no substitute. At least — not among adjectives. Maybe a few nouns are unique to a specific item but adjectives are slippery devils. Where there’s one, there’s another and another and another.

Arabic has more words than English. Officially, more than 12 million words, though I wonder how many of those words are obsolete or not in regular use. English is the next largest language with about 200,000 words in active use, excluding those which are currently obsolete. For the moment.

NOTE: Never count an obsolete word as completely “out.” Obsolete words have an odd way or slithering back into standard English without warning.

Meanwhile, 200,000 is a fair number of words. The next time the word “awesome” or “iconic” springs to your fingers or lips, contain yourself. As a personal favor, please find a different word. Any word.

Let’s make “emblematic” a hot new word. Even better, let’s use “seminal.”

Categories: birds, language, Marilyn Armstrong, Photography, Words, Writing

Tags: , , , , ,

40 replies

  1. A thesaurus is a very useful book. There are always words, especially when speaking, that catch on and are overused. When it is your job to talk, a good vocabulary is vital. I know this post is about language and the over use of words, but I can’t overlook Fenway. If it isn’t a national historic landmark, I think it should be (I’ll check with Google). I am in my 60’s, but when I was 10 years old, my father took us to Fenway. It wasn’t baseball season, so we only got to see the outside, but it made him happy. Now, I can walk to Fenway from our son’s house. I love that Fenway still stands. Too many stadiums and sports centers get torn down and replaced. In our house, we were Phillies fans (I grew up near Philadelphia) and Red Sox fans (Boston was our adopted city).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robin – an oft repeated anecdote.
      I had a few books on my desk in the Boston TV Newsroom.
      A bible, a dictionary, a law book and a thesaurus……a colleague walked by, looked at the books and asked why I had them. “I love words. I like to be sure I’m using them correctly” — I explained slowly. My collegue looked confused as he responded, “..But this is Television–we have pictures–who cares about words?”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “rad,” Garry, “rad”!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can’t stand the overuse of some words, and ‘awesome’ is one of them. Interesting that the same happens over there. I have to say I don’t mind ‘iconic’ though, as long as it’s used in the right context. But overusing words and dumbing them down in meaning demeans our rich language, and that does annoy me. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a seminal post!! Wait, no, that just sounds WRONG somehow. Emblematic might work, but is a mouthful to say. I’d say iconic is pretty much here to stay, but will go out of fashion, just like “awesome’ did. It’ll come back of course, but then ‘turkey’ (a derogatory term for a fool in the late 70s and early 80s) went away (except at Thanksgiving) and never came back. There may be hope yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wicked cool, totally groovy, far out, man, post that was. Oops. Am I dating myself?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an awesome post on your iconic blog! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re a bit of a diva, aren’t you (wink, wink) πŸ˜€

      Liked by 2 people

    • ESPN’s Sunday Night Diva trio – A-Rod, Jessica (w/ J-lo lurking in the background) & the play by play guy (?) are iconic-ly BAD.
      I think they carry the baseball cliche manual for frequent reference.
      Let’s force Vin Scully to come back for the good of the profession he lifted to new heights. Play on Vin’s pride. Iconic broadcaster, Mr. Scully.
      Mercy! And Deuces Wild!

      Liked by 1 person

      • They’re awesomely awful? I don’t watch ESPN often, but the little bits I’ve seen and heard, well, even a relative non-sports person like me groans at all of the cliches. I think I have seen them since Sunday is usually when we eat out and a lot of places have ESPN on.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Trent, yes, ESPN is usually on in restaurants, hospitals, ER’s and bars. NOT in the dives I used to frequent. I feel like the ESPN people are “sports for dummies -101”. Their utterances are banal and redundant. It’s like the TV news report on a fire. You SEE the video of the raging fire and billowing smoke. Reporter’s audio: “You could see the flames and smoke for miles”. Duh! We know from the video. Note to self: stop hyperventilating here.
          A capable sportscaster COMPLEMENTS the video – he/she ADDS to it — doesn’t REPEAT.
          Okay, enough.
          Say, goodnight, Garry.
          Goodnight, Garry and good luck.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I agree – I consider myself a sports idiot but I think I do have some intelligence. ESPN does not give me credit for any intelligence… On the other hand, idiot or no, I find that I often understand the game better than a lot of enthusiasts. Did they get their knowledge from ESPN? Makes sense….

            Liked by 1 person

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