Loaded language is a way to belittle people, to sneer at others, to deprecate them. Here are a few examples:
1. Loophole—this implies sneaky behavior. It may be something we all are deserving of (a legal tax deduction, for example), but calling it a loophole lends it an unethical veneer.
2. Claim—if you write that someone “claims” something, you are casting some doubt on what was said or written. Don’t be afraid to use “say” or “said,” “writes” or “wrote.”
3. So-called—here the eyebrows are being raised to the hairline. You are automatically diminishing whatever “so-called” is modifying. “The so-called Equal Rights Amendment”? You are saying that if it passes (and will it ever?), it really won’t be about equal rights for women.
4. Elitist—why don’t you just come out and say someone is a snob?
5. Liberal—for many years now, political campaigns have tried to paint this word in a negative light, tying liberals to abortion, drugs, big spending, wasteful government , integration, adequate health care and government entitlements. As as result, many liberals now call themselves progressives, even though they still know they are liberal at heart.
This expression means to act dissolutely or foolishly. “Wild oats” refers to a type of grass called Avena fatua that grows so prolifically in Europe it is considered a weed. Therefore, if you were to plant (sow) these wild oats, you’d be acting foolishly and starting something that would be hard to stop later on.
Now you know.
Finally, finally, we have had measurable rain in Southern California. Until this storm began last night, we had just a little over an inch of rain this entire season, which began last July. Normal rainfall for this period is 11 inches. We who live here want and need more—a lot more. But do we want it to rain continuously or continually?
It’s easy to get these two words confused. CONTINUOUSLY means without interruption, whereas CONTINUALLY means sporadically, intermittently. The former would be a problem, as the hillsides are so dry that a deep soaking all at once would lead to the landslides you read about here. On-and-off rain, continual rain, would allow the water to sink in without causing erosion. A way to remember the difference between these two words might be to notice that CONTINUOUS has an S, and that, unfortunately, stands for slides. Think continual rain for us here in this parched land.
Yes, the climate is changing rapidly, a cause of concern for all.
To start with the pronunciation, it’s “eh PIT o me.” I once heard a famous wine expert describe a particular wine as the “EP i tome” of its kind. Just another day when I yelled at the radio and did an impressive eye roll.
As to its meaning, if you read that “the Taj Mahal is the epitome of a gorgeous building,” it doesn’t mean it is the most beautiful building in the world. How could anyone know that objectively? You are stating that the Taj Mahal is representative of, typical of, an architectural masterpiece.
In an effort to stem the tide of clichés barraging us daily, I offer two for your extinction:
—MAGEDDON and —POCALYPSE
Must every negative event have one of these stuck to its rear end? When the notorious 405 freeway in Los Angeles was first shut down for widening, newspaper and broadcast reports feared the worst and dubbed it an impending “Carmageddon” or a “Carpocalypse.” It didn’t happen then nor on subsequent shutdowns. People found other routes, and no disaster ensued. The East Coast has recently been under siege for “Snowmageddons” and “Stormpocalypses” (beware: another one is coming this week!), and California has a severe “Droughtmageddon.” Yes, the lack of rainfall is truly worrisome, but “severe and prolonged drought” makes the point.
And don’t forget —GATE, a legacy of Watergate in the 1970s. On second thought, do forget it.