Unpack This

Lately, something has been bugging me.

To be honest (make that TBH), numerous things have been raising my dander–so many, in fact, that it would take far more than 500 words to justify my positions and air my complaints.

Hence, I’ll start with one little item: So.

Yep, that’s it: So.

Haven’t you noticed? Everyone is saying it. Gone are the days when news reporters, political leaders, teachers, scientists and, naturally, teenagers could begin a declarative sentence without inserting “so” at the start. Instead of its past common use as an adverb (for example, “He was so thrilled to win the lottery”), a conjunction (“They couldn’t walk, so they drove”), an interjection (“So that’s where you hid it!”), a pronoun or an adjective (“We told stories that were not so”), “so” is now the trendiest way to start a sentence–any sentence.

Listen to people around you, to celebrities, politicians or pundits being interviewed, to the girl next door. Everyone is saying “so,” and it’s spreading like the plague.

Yes, I was an English major, so (used as a conjunction!!) perhaps these things stick out to me, but isn’t enough enough?

Another word that is increasingly grating is “unpack.” Perhaps you’ve heard a guest clinician, talk show host or even a minister use that mildly insulting term. It often appears when a speaker presents information or a concept he/she may think is beyond easy reach of the audience’s understanding.

“Morning made a considerable difference in my general prospect of life, and brightened it so much that it scarcely seemed the same,” wrote Charles Dickens in his classic novel “Great Expectations.” A professor might read this passage aloud then say to his/her class, “Now let’s unpack what Pip is telling us.”

Hmmph. Isn’t it obvious? Pip simply had a bad night and felt better in the morning, like a lot of us. And isn’t “unpacking” something we do with groceries and suitcases? Whatever happened to “analyze,” “assess,” “consider” or “investigate?”

And how about the phrase “circle back?” Please. We can “return to the first point,” or “reconsider what we’ve already reviewed,” or “get back to the meat of the problem,” or–take your pick. But “circle back?” What is this, a wagon train?

Language is ever-changing, of course, and one should remain calm when certain words enter our collective vocabulary. In fact, it’s another way that humans connect with one another, verify that they’re “with it,” one of us, up-to-the-minute, in on the joke.

Consider, if you will, the 1970s, when scads of Americans walked around declaring everything to be “far out” or “groovy” and we all knew the origin of “Good night, John-boy.” Or the ’80s, when suddenly anything sub-par was determined to be “grody” or “bogus,” and we begged others to “gag me with a spoon.”

The 21st century has witnessed the emergence of a tech-based lexicon: “binge-watch,” “selfiegenic,” “troll,” “photobomb” and–well, you get the picture (that is, selfie).

Then there is the growing catalog of acronyms to which we’re slowly but surely becoming accustomed, things like EVOO (thank you, Rachael Ray), LOL, TBH, SCOTUS, GMO, ATM, TTYTT, BFF, HTML, YOLO and IDK.

At my advanced age, mastering modern acronyms is practically like learning an entirely new language.

Still not getting the drift? Let me unpack this further for you in a brief illustration.

“So I texted my BFF, like, ‘OMG, YOLO, right?’ So we trolled that VGL guy and snapped some selfies before we got photobombed. We circled back to the ATM and, IDK, it was just SO OVER. Such a greebo.”

This hasn’t done much to shorten my lengthy list of irritations, but please, choose your words carefully–and say it ain’t “so.”




4 Responses

  1. Cathy Bowman

    I SO agree with you! Another one that really gets my goat: “Love On” used as a verb. Wasn’t loving people good enough? Why do we now need to love ON people? Every time I hear someone say this (including my pastor and my college-aged daughter), it makes my mind jump to an awful place. It sounds like something perverted to me! I guess I must be old!

  2. Kristi Elliott

    Yes, yes, and yes, Jane! The latest one I’m hearing from the millennials in my life is, “you are not wrong” or “you are so not wrong”. I’m not even sure what that means!

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