Every morning I get a Word-of-the-Day email from the fine folks over at Merriam-Webster. Lame, I know. But I'm trying to expand my vocabulary, and it's even working a little bit ... at least when it comes to writing. Conversation is a different animal altogether. No matter how many new nouns, verbs and adjectives I commit to memory, I pretty much use the same combination of words I've been using since I was in high school. Senior year of college I was in my room with my roommate, Jim Beahm (real name), and Jim suddenly started laughing.
"What?" I asked.
"You're an English major (pause for laughter) ... a fucking English major, and you talk like a retarded dock worker." Jim answered.
He was 100-percent right. I guess it's a combination of being afraid I'll pronounce something wrong (I once pronounced "Beatlesque" as "Beatle-S-Q") and not wanting to sound like a Douche. Whatever the reason, when my conversational vocabulary hit a plateau -- oh, say, 15 years ago -- I began saying the same shit over and over and over again. So, after some careful self-assessment, I've narrowed down my six most overused words. (Note: If you're one of the seven people reading this, you should give this a shot. It's a lot of fun.)
1. Ridiculous. It's ridiculous how often I use the word ridiculous. The only four-syllable word in my repertoire is less impressive than Brett Favre's penis. And here's the proof I use the word wrong: I find very few things absurd, but I find nearly everything ridiculous.
2. Fuck. I vividly remember the first time I used this powerful, powerful word. It was in response to my friend Jim's request that I "curse more." I thought Jim was right. So one day I picked my opening and, with a bunch of my friends around to bear witness, asked my dad, "Hey, do you mind if I fuck this game out?" We were playing Nintendo at the time and to this day, I still have no idea what "fuck this game out" means. But my dad's anger was so intense and so immediate that I knew I'd discovered a word that would play a very pivotal role in my life. That's the day my love affair with "fuck" and "fucking" and "motherfucker" and every other variation of the only true four-letter word began. And it continues to this day. Fuck is like the bacon of the English language. Add it to any sentence, and the sentence improves.
3. Amazing. Whether it's a girl's ass, a specialty sushi roll, or a paranoid schizophrenic's rant, amazing is my go-to descriptor. Rarely do the things I describe as amazing actually "fill me with wonder," but I can never seem to find a more-fitting word.
4. Jesus Christ. This one's more of a reaction -- usually as the result of a Sixer turnover or what I consider someone else's driving mistake. The Sixers play 82 games a year and average over ten and a half turnovers, so even without the driving reactions, you can see how this one ended up on the list. One thing I've always wondered about this word: Do other religions scream the full name or their god/gods when they stub their toes or get cut off in traffic?
5. Shit. I use this one primarily as a substitute for words like "stuff" and "things." To me, "Working and shit" is a much better response to "What have you been up to lately?" than "Working and stuff." It's interesting that with all of the use this word gets by me, I rarely use shit in a scatological sense.
6. Nice. Probably my least favorite of the overused words. This is my stock response whenever I'm not quite sure how to respond but feel I ought to say something: "I'm thinking about getting my Masters" ... "Nice"; or "I got a DUI last night" ... "N-i-c-e." I feel awful each time I say it but, like a true addict, I can't seem to kick the habit.