The other day at work, I “called out” a coworker for using a nondescript word: interesting. I don’t exactly remember the context, but I felt a little guilty about it afterwards because (who am I to say who can and can’t use these words from those words?) Nonetheless, it made me think about all the words out there that have, in a way, become perverted. When I stopped to think about it, there were other words that came to mind for which the meaning has morphed over time.
Off the top of my head, I can think of three others: nice, good, and fine. (For the record, when someone asks you how you are doing, good is not a correct grammatical response.) How often do you hear someone respond to your questions with one of these four words? How often do you use one of these words in a one-word response to someone else’s questions?
I’ve started to make a concerted effort to be more descriptive (accurate?) in my response to the questions that are asked of me. That is, when someone asks me what I thought of something, I won’t just say “interesting.” I’ve noticed that I’m starting to use the word fascinating more frequently, so I hope that it doesn’t become another “interesting” to me.
Aside: come to think of it, assuming there’s a followup when someone uses the word interesting, maybe it serves as a way to buy some time to better articulate one’s thoughts. That is, maybe it’s a verbal tic.
So, as I said, I’ve started to try to eliminate these (what I call) nondescript words from my everyday use. It’s remarkable how often I catch myself about to say one of them. I wonder what other phrases or words I fall back on that I haven’t yet been able to identify.