This is supposed to be an essay about hyperbole, and how it sometimes just annoys the hell out of me. For some reason, thinking about hyperbole and the way it is often abused caused me to think about the title word of a “song” from Isaac Hayes 1969 album, “Hot Buttered Soul”. Still one of my favorites, it was one of those things that didn’t exactly sit well at home, even though by then I had been gone for almost three years, give or take. But Isaac, did you need all that? It’s great music – let it ride.
I am very fortunate to have had a series of teachers of English, Composition and Literature that had high expectations. They rotated in and out of my life from grade school through college, and I think I came away with a firm grip on the English language. My background, working class, blue collar, living next to the railroad tracks, and virtually “growing up” in the business end of an auto repair shop, taught me some things (and some words) that I’m not necessarily proud of, but let’s just say that if somebody erupts with a string of cuss words, I can translate for anyone who’s interested.
The working guys I’ve known – and I’ve known alot, are generally pretty creative when it comes to composition of their profanity. More than a few times I couldn’t help but laugh with a frustrated mechanic who came up with a magnificent description of a burned out truck clutch, even though it probably cost him a few extra minutes in the confessional. I think most of us are pretty good about using the words we have to get through our daily obligations, and therein lies my frustration: the people who insist on using words that the rest of us know about, but wouldn’t necessarily use in everyday conversation – and are in most cases, unnecessary.
Example: A middle aged co-worker who, when I appeared angry over something, asked me why I was so “vexed” – Really? We were in the warehouse of a fastener distributor, and I was hacked about somebody (him) not carrying their weight on the job, which was putting one of my customers behind the 8-ball. Vexed was not a word that would jump right out at that moment. “Magnificent” is another. Something needs to be pretty good to bring it up to “magnificent”. I’ve seen the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon, the Jungfrau in the Alps and all of those rise up to meet “magnificent”. Oh, and Secretariat. That was one “magnificent” horse. Those things don’t come up in conversation much, though.
Good, solid wordcraft is what I’m after. If you have to sit and think about what word to use, maybe just let it be, and use whatever popped up first. Its easier for all of us that way.