It’s that time of year aget in wordland--the moment once dictionaries select Words of the Year (unfriend, distracted driving), once the American Dialect Society votes on which terms amount up the times (sexting? Octomom?), and when Lake Superior State College, paddling against the existing, worries its list of Baniburned Words (and phrases), prefer 2009’s ”it’s that time of year.”


The banimelted words, of course, regularly overlap through the words of the year. LSSU’s deciders, rushing to show their superior taste, frequently attempt to kill off expressions that are nowbelow close to their expiration date. (Twenty years ago, they tried to outlaw liposuction, drug czar, and fax, the verb.) Predicting intake adjust is tough enough; legislating it is a fool’s errand also.

You are watching: Better than a stick in the eye


But this year, for when, I’m cruising on the ship of fools. I also have an expression to nominate for banishment. It’s not gone missing or might treatment less or any kind of of the usual suspects, though; it’s a little bit of hyperbole with endmuch less variations, every one of which I would be happy never before to check out again.


My nominee isn’t brand-new, however last February I noticed it in a classier location than its usual haunts. At John McIntyre’s language blog, You Don’t Say--where readers are asked to ”save a civil tongue in their heads”--one commenter posted a complaint around the language of a TV weathermale. ”Tonight he came up with ’the evening-hour time frame’,” sassist the commenter. ”Made me want to dig my eyeballs and also eardrums out via a soup spoon.”


Ouch, I shelp, and also yuck. But after all, this wasn’t in a glossy magazine; and by the criteria of discuss the wild Web, it sounds like Emily Message.


The trouble is, what happens on the Net isn’t like what happens in Vegas. It travels. Only a month after that blog encounter, as I check out Newsweek in a doctor’s office, I found a organization writer imputing equivalent feelings to his father: ”My dad would certainly fairly gouge out his own eyes than spfinish $4 on a latte at Starbucks,” he shelp.


Newsweek, of course, would hesitate to usage such graphic language about an actual maiming (unmuch less tright here was an excellent excusage, choose a national security angle). Like many print media, it still tries to protect against offending readers over the little stuff--dirty words, split infinitives, who for whom. And traditionally, this restraint has actually applied to figurative or hyperbolic language, as well.


At the Baltimore Sun, wright here McIntyre used to run the copy desks, the eye-gouging imagery would certainly be off limits, he confirmed. Figurative language that’s ”gratuitously violent or distasteful” is unwelcome, as the paper’s writing guidelines make clear. ”Hyperbole, and also specifically death hyperbole,” is not to be supplied flippantly. ”Repulsive metaphors have no location in the paper.” The cautionary example is an oyster simile I won’t quote, because it might make you desire to…you know.


Or possibly it wouldn’t; not all stomachs are equally sensitive. But I’m not the just audience member who’s turned off by eye-gouging and also various other graphic torments. There’s a factor ”Un Chien Andalou” is still famed, and it isn’t the movie’s plot.


Now, it’s true that some images of hurting oneself are time-honored phrases. ”Cutting off your nose to spite your face” has been around since the 16th century. ”It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye” has actually been faint praise at least given that the 1870s. Children have sworn ”cross my heart, hope to die” for more than a century, and for many kind of of them, the next line is ”stick a needle in my eye.” At some point, such familiar phrases lose some of their shock worth.


And many type of of the more recent expressions are more jocular than visceral; ”I’d rather gnaw my arm off,” ”eat my own leg,” ”chew my foot off,” say the jollier hyperbolists on the Internet, achieving verbal extravagance without triggering the gag reflex. If we might leave the imperiods at that level of abstractivity, I’d be content.


But there appears to be an arms race undermeans in the self-maiming metaphor department. For every slacker who’s content through chewing off his foot, there’s a striver piling on the dreadful details: ”I’d rather drill my eyeball with a power tool.” ”Stick my hand also in a meat grinder.” ”Pull out my fingernails through pliers.” If the print media catch the hyperbole virus, will certainly the real world’s troubles seem shrunken in comparison?


And yes, given that you ask, I would also favor 2010 to be a farewell year for ”I threw up a small in my mouth.” But on that score--unfavor the eye-gouging fad--I’m optimistic. The expression continues to be rare in print, and by 2006 one magazine had actually labeled it ”so 2005.” Last week it acquired a mumbled half-point out on ”Scrubs,” but with luck, that will be also little bit, as well late.


gmail.com; for more language commentary go to her blog, Throw Grammar from the Train, throwgrammarfromthetrain.blogspot.com.
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