Category Archives: language

Hateful Haters and the People Who Hate Them

The word “hater” has been thrown at me a few times lately.

And to that I say: Oh, please.

These days, anyone who expresses disdain, dislike, or disapproval is labelled a hater. Offering criticism? You, sir, are a hater. Pointing out hypocrisy? Hater. Poking fun at someone or something? Hater, hater, hater!

My feelings aren’t hurt, I just don’t like that the word hate has been so devalued.

Hate is a powerful word that should be reserved for serious things. Hate is rooted in a visceral response that often rises from prejudice or ignorance. Hate leads to ugly acts. A lynching? That’s hate. Me saying I don’t like someone’s ridiculous sports column? That’s not hate.

Oh, and by the way a bit of advice: If you are an adult male, do not ever use the word hater, because if you do, you will sound like a teenage girl. And I’m sure you would hate that.

Verbiage: A Word Most Foul

In Abbott and Costello’s legendary Bagel Street routine, whenever the word Susquehanna is mentioned, all hell breaks loose.

That’s sort of how I feel when I hear the word verbiage.

People often use verbiage when they mean text or copy. “We need to change this verbiage,” or “We should add some verbiage here.”

By definition, verbiage refers to something that’s excessively wordy, or as M-W puts it “A profusion of words usually of little or obscure content.”

To be sure, it’s a common error. I was in a meeting recently where the V-bomb was dropped four times in just half an hour. Instead of going Susquehanna on them, I kept my mouth shut and tried to look interested.

Worse yet is when people say verbage, a made up word that’s a combination of verbiage and garbage. As a professional, I’ll be the judge of what’s verbiage and what’s verbage. And what is neither.

Let’s be clear, I’m not being a language snob. My grammar and usage is nothing to write home about. Not throwing a stapler at someone who misuses the word verbiage — or smashing their Susquehanna hat — is what separates us from the wild beasts.

The Word of the Day is Gobshite

I was reading about Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland — on an Irish news site — and was surprised to see the word gobshite bandied about in the comments. Gobshite?

Literally, gobshite combines two wonderful words of the British Isles, gob (mouth) and shite (sh*t). Mouthsh*t doesn’t have a great ring to it — but gobshite? That’s brilliant.

I found this definition online:

1. (UK, Irish, slang, moderately offensive) One who engages in nonsensical chatter or unwanted conversation.
2. (UK, Irish, slang, moderately offensive) A person of very poor judgment and unpleasant character.

Another esteemed online reference, Urban Dictionary, defines gobshite as a “Loud-mouthed person who talks a lot, but nothing with any value – as in shite coming out of their gob.”

You will also find definitions that say gobshite refers to what one expels from their mouth while chewing tobacco, which is both colorful and appropriate.

Several years ago after a listener complained about the word, the BBC’s Ulster service ruled it was acceptable for broadcast. According to a 2007 newspaper report:

“The meaning conveyed by the words ‘shite’ and ‘gobshite’ in the vernacular of Northern Ireland, and in the context of this programme in particular, was different from other parts of the UK in that they did necessarily not carry the same level of offence and aggression and could be seen as a form of comedic banter.” The language was also “appropriate for children listening during school holidays”.

As for America, I’m not sure gobshite would fly, but I encourage you to give it a shot. Next time your commenting in your local newspaper’s blog section, see if you can work in a gobshite or two. I promise to do the same.

On Writing Well

If everything were written with this sort of clarity and brevity, the world would be a better place. Bloggers take note.

From the Department of Terrible Acronyms

The very best acronyms are the ones you can pronounce as a word: NIMBY, FIFA, NYRA, COBOL, SCOTUS… you get the idea.

That’s the gold standard. But sometimes things get complicated.

MILF. Now they have their own flag.

I was listening to an NPR story this morning about trouble the Philippine government is having with a separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The reporter kept deliberately spelling out the acronym, M-I-L-F.

M-I-L-F? That’s MILF!

Obviously there are some cultural difference in the Philippines, and even though they speak English, the term MILF may not have made it across the ocean yet. The inappropriateness of Islamic militants using that acronym is completely mind boggling.

Anyway, here’s a modest proposal: maybe they could change Front to Organization, making their group MILO, a much more dignified acronym. It sounds friendly, too. Every time I hear it I’ll think of Milo and Otis, but who cares what I think?

By the way, if MILF finds out we’re laughing at their acronym, things may get completely FUBAR.