Discussion about the worst words is in vogue these days.
The Atlantic Wire
’s Jen Doll has led the charge
; our sister site Ragan.com
has added to the mix
, as have a number of other websites.
This week, The New York Times
made its case for a word that is so vile—so utterly detestable—that its use is “undoing 2,000 years’ worth of human progress.”
The word is “really,” and the Times’ Neil Genzlinger writes
“I’m not talking about ‘Really?’ as a request for more information or an expression of surprise. I’m referring to the more recent, faddish use of it: delivered with a high-pitched sneer to indicate a contempt so complete that it requires no clarification.
“Say a co-worker shows up for a pivotal meeting wearing a plaid blouse and a polka-dot skirt. In the old days you might have said: ‘Well, that is certainly an interesting fashion choice. Myself, I prefer something more subdued when sitting down with a client.’ Now, though, if you’ve succumbed to the loathsome trend, you will simply aim as withering a look as you can at your colleague, say ‘Really?’ and walk away.”
Genzlinger’s claims the word has jumped the shark on TV. Scriptwriters, he says, seem to have embraced it as if they’ve “trademarked it and [are] receiving royalties.”
The story riled up a number of readers, including Jerry Seinfeld—the
Jerry Seinfeld. He wrote a letter to the editor in which he describes Genzlinger’s piece as “so deeply vacuous that I couldn’t help but feel that you have stepped into my area of expertise.”
“O.K., fine, when it’s used in scripted media, it is a little lazy. But comedy writers are lazy. You’re not fixing that.
“So, here’s the bottom line.
“If you’re a writer, fine, don’t use it. But in conversation it is fun to say.”
“You crumbled a bit of civilization off there yourself.
Seinfeld’s opinion aside, there was a glaring omission in Genzlinger’s piece: He failed to mention the use of “really” on social media, where its use might be more rampant than on TV. (Genzlinger can be forgiven for this oversight; he’s a copy editor and TV critic.)
On Tuesday, for instance, Reuters business columnist Felix Salmon shared his displeasure with a recent Fast Company
article, by tweeting
: “Really, @FastCompany? A very good @emilymbadger story, with a sleazy bikini pic inserted for no reason.”
Meanwhile, Nick Lazzarini, star of the Oxygen network’s “All The Right Moves,” is not happy with the weather, so he tweeted
: “Really?!?! It’s October people” along with this pic:
And animal expert Jeff Musial, a regular on Jimmy Fallon’s show, seems to hate Christmas—or seeing Christmas trees in early October—so he tweeted
: “REALLY SEARS REALLY ????” with this image:
Perhaps Salmon, Lazzarini, and Musial are employing “really” in this way because they’re regulars on TV.
Or maybe this use of the word is something we’ll have to get use to, whether it’s in the office, on TV, or on social media. Really.