The incorrect usage of some words has Catherine annoyed

O'Sullivan 

The incorrect usage of some words has Catherine annoyed

I've been thinking about words lately, and how popular culture so consistently corrupts what some of them actually mean. It used to annoy me a little; now, it annoys me a lot--particularly when it trivializes some fairly Godzilla-esque concepts.

The one that bothers me the most is the casual use of the word "addiction." People say, "I'm addicted to chocolate." "I'm addicted to pedicures." "I'm addicted to these nonfat soy lattes with an extra shot of vanilla-flavored goo." Betty might say that Fred is "addicted" to watching football on television, when all she really means is that he does it all the time, and that he'd experience some level of frustration if he couldn't.

This isn't addiction; it's habit. The truth is that if Fred lost football, eventually he would figure out something else to do. Like how to switch the channel to wrestling.

The real definition of "addiction," according to the National Institutes of Health is, "a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain--they change its structure and how it works."

Neither chocolate, nor pedicures, nor football fulfill these criteria.

The real estate industry is responsible for another one that's been getting on my wick for years: They've consistently misused and watered down the definition of the word "home," for so long that it's become common usage. Regular people no longer say they're selling their houses. They say they're selling their "homes."

This is bad. When a person allows a marketing ploy to penetrate this deeply, the devil has just run back down to Hades with a little piece of his soul. "Home sales" are forever going up and down. Real estate companies don't advertise houses, condominiums and apartments; they advertise "homes."

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of "home" is "the place where one lives; the fixed residence of a family or household." The definition goes on and on, mostly explicating the nuances of emotional experiences and sentiments attached to the word "home," but the key concepts here are lives and fixed. "Home" is the place you feel safe, comfortable, warm and--if you're very lucky--loved. According to Thomas Wolfe, it's a place you can't go back to again. "Home" is the place we all long for, whether realistically or not: the place where the flapjacks are on the griddle, Ma's got stains on her apron, and the 8-track-tape player you bought with a paycheck from your first job still works exactly the way it did the day you bought it.

It's interesting to note that Buddhists take it even further. "Home" means dwelling within your enlightened Buddha nature. All the other natures--i.e., the rotten ones--are just ramshackle apartments and pads you crashed in for a little while

Whatever "home" is, it's not some souped-up particle-board-and-drywall shack manufactured by Pulte, KB or any other soulless corporate machine that doesn't give a shit whether you're sleeping on a park bench or, due to your inability to make the mortgage payment, at all.

Last but not least is the word "fuck." Its definition is "to have sexual intercourse." Now, I like both the concept "fuck" and the word "fuck": the first for obvious reasons, and the second for the sheer fricative power. "Fuck" is clearly the best swear word ever invented. To say the letter "f," you've got to put your teeth into your bottom lip with some degree of pressure. Very satisfying. "U" is clearly the most powerful of all vowels. "A" is wimpy, "e" mundane; "i" is trivial, and "o" is just plain boring. Then the end of the word, the "ck" ... man, the way it hits the roof of your mouth just short of a good retch. When you've just injured your toe running into a coffee table that you damn well knew was there, or you've been told by the Internal Revenue Service that you owe them an additional $5,000, well, there's just no other word that will do.

But people--particularly young people, but lazy people as well--act like the word "fuck" is the only adjective that exists. "My fucking car broke down," "That was fucking awesome!" (Don't even get me started on "awesome." Very few things are actually "awesome.") What the fuck, who the fuck, how the fuck. They're wearing out a perfectly good swear word simply because they're determined to keep their number of vocabulary words below that of the average well-educated chimpanzee.

Those are my thoughts for now. I've got to leave my house and go get one of those delicious nonfat soy lattes with the extra shot of vanilla goo to which I'm so habituated.

They're awesome.

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