As a freelance journalist, my stock in trade is words. But my interest in words goes beyond those I use in my articles.
I find it interesting how words or phrases become part of everyday usage, both in conversation and in writing.
I‘m not the only one keeping track of such things. Dictionary.com comes up with a Word of the Year every December. For 2019 it was “existential.”
You don’t know what it means? Join the crowd. I won’t go into the various ways “existential” is defined, for a columnist is allotted only so much space in a newspaper. I’ve never used the word in my writing and have no intention of doing so. Columnist Westbrook Pegler would have called it an “out-of-town word.”
My choice for Word of the Year would have been “iconic.” Originally it had a rather narrow meaning relating to icons, two-dimensional sacred art associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church.
But the word wouldn’t stay put, to where today motorcycles, cars, movies, rock bands, TV shows, various products, food, even comic books are all “iconic” – and the list keeps growing. We need an iconoclast to rein this word in before everything becomes “iconic” and the word loses all meaning, if it hasn’t already
“Have a nice day,” and how it has mutated over the years, also interests me. “Nice” is a nice word, but the mysterious forces that dictate such things eventually replaced it with “Have a good day.”
Then “Have a wonderful day” had a run before being succeeded by “Have a great day,” which appears to be the dominant current expression. Sales clerks and checkers wish every customer a “great day,” where a simple “thank you” used to suffice.
At the rate such modifiers are steadily escalating, it’s only a matter of time before “great” also is replaced. But by what? Magnificent? Stupendous? Fantastic? My money’s on “awesome.”
But perhaps there’s a reset button somewhere that will take us back to “nice,” and we can start all over again.
Outside of businesses, I’m more likely to be told to simply “Have a good one,” the “one” never actually being specified. I take it to mean either the day itself or whatever strikes my fancy that day.
Considering all the nice/good/wonderful/great days I’ve been wished, you would think I’d have one occasionally. But most of my days tend to be rather humdrum as I go about my routine tasks – probably much like your days. Not that I’m complaining, every day I wake up breathing is a great day.
In our increasingly hostile society, I suppose we could do worse than wish each other a pleasant day. So have a good one.