If you could eliminate a single word from the English language, what would it be? Reasons can vary—overuse, etymological confusion, aesthetic ugliness—and need not be explained. Simply propose a word and append the #tnyquestion hashtag. We’ll consider them all, pick one, and then consult with the people who are in charge of the language to see what we can do.
Friday, The New Yorker launched a fun new game (and you know we love games from The New Yorker; the last page is the first we turn to, even if we've never won. Ever.) In this new gambit, dubbed "Questioningly," the editors pose a question for readers to answer by Facebook or Twitter. Clearly, there's a social media push to this plan; as such, you're supposed to use the hashtag #tnyquestion with any responses. The magazine's Ben Greenman writes, "The question will challenge you to provide a funny answer, though we will also accept answers that are witty, sharp, amusing, ingenious, or whimsical."
This week's question is interesting, and so New Yorkery:
But, wait a minute. As well as thinking of many, many words we would like to eliminate from the English language for reasons ranging from "yucky-soundingness" (aka "moist" and "fetid") to excessive use of letters ("antidisestablishmentarianism") to words that are way too cute ("tweeps"), there are the words we find all too often in The New Yorker itself. Despite the rest of the world having adjusted to certain "aesthetic standards" for these words, The New Yorker has not, often appearing as the last holdout at the very end of a linguistic war. So, we're asking our own question. If you could eliminate a single word from The New Yorker, what would it be?
Here are our nominees:
coöperation. While the Web-only content appears blissfully free of this little quirk, it's all over the pages of the actual magazine, and it never fails to give us pause. Why so archaic, New Yorker? (See also reëlect; see also: "diaeresis"—that's what those not-umlauts are.)
élite. Another one on the pages of the magazine but not online. Way to rub it in, guys. That's not hoity-toity or anything.
spectre. While this is an especially ghostly, and therefore evocative, way of spelling this word, it has the added impact of sending an involuntary tremor our spine whenever we set eyes upon it, especially when we're home alone. "The Spectre of the Shrinking Brainpan" is particularly terrifying. (See also theatre, though it's less scary and more just foreign.)
twenty-five thousand. As in, "How to live in New York on twenty-five thousand a year." And any numbers spelled out thusly, aka, "nineteen-forty," aka, ""one-thousand-t
questioningly. Perhaps most tellingly, there's the word of this new New Yorker endeavor itself: Questioningly?
We vote to get rid of that one. Lovingly, of course.
Image via Shutterstock by Masson.