The Atlantic

I Can’t Stand These Words Anymore

I’ve spent my life immersed in language, but this relationship, like all relationships, is fraught.
Source: Alex Merto

Recently, I noticed a headline in The New York Times that featured the word tasked. This is among my least favorite rhetorical strategies—the verbing of the noun. Contemporary American English is rife with such constructions: to journal, to parent, to impact, to effect. I wince a little every time I come across one.

As a writer, I’ve spent my life immersed in language, but this relationship, like all relationships, is fraught; for each word I love (, , —do we start to see a pattern?) there are also words, or word types, as an example, not because I don’t admire the lilting rhythms of those four syllables, but because I don’t believe epiphanies exist. Sure, we may have certain “Aha!” moments. But what do they add up to if they do not alter, in some fundamental fashion, the way we live? We’re born, we die, and no one ever changes really. Even for James Joyce, an epiphany is just a literary device.

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