It’s only April and already we know what the Word of the Year will be:
It was first coined in 1968, but no one outside the world of science had heard of it until January, and now, like the pandemic it describes, it’s everywhere. In fact, there’s a case to be made that “coronavirus” is the first truly global word: used by everyone everywhere in hundreds of languages – a lot. The 8 Billion-Person Word.
But there’s another word we see almost as much, a word I want to strangle.
It’s “unprecedented”, as in ‘In these unprecedented times…….”, a phrase that arrives in my Inbox at the top of far too many emails.
I run from its clunkiness, its pretension, its replacement value for “Dear Friend”.
I hate that it’s so overused; it means less and less the more we see it.
As Mamma Cass said: “Worn-out phrases and longing gazes won’t get you where you want to go.”
But most of all, I hate its length.
Does it really take five syllables to express this three-syllable idea?
So how about ‘unrivalled’ or even ‘unheard-of’?
And speaking of ….well, why don’t we call Front Line Workers “Frontliners” instead, and Essential Workers “Essents”? Much faster and cleaner, and doesn’t “I’m a Frontliner” sound better than “I’m a Front Line Worker?”
But we can always do better than I can. In fact, using our collective intelligence, I think we can come up with a replacement for ‘unprecedented’ that’s even shorter. By this I mean a word of two syllables or even one. Given that the pandemic isn’t going to disappear (or a vaccine appear) any time soon, think of all the breath, space and cyberbits we’ll save.
And if we can do that for this one word, I believe we can shorten other pushy words like “curate”, “pivot”, and vacu-phrases like “We’re in this together,” and “Keep Calm and [Whatever].”
So I’ve decided to hold a contest. It’s in two parts:
- Please send your shorter, sweeter version of “unprecedented”
- Please send another word or vacu-phrase you’ve come to loathe in the past weeks — along with its replacement.
Just post it in the Comments Section of this blog post for all to see.
Our Unelected Committee of Exorcists will take the next few days to assess the candidate words and determine the winner and runners-up.
If your entry is a winner or draws honorable mention, you will win a prize, which is a free ticket (and eBook) to the first RamsayTalks Online – live with Jared Diamond on May 14th.
Which is the longest-winded way I know to tell you that we’re up and running with our events again, and to expect not just The Plague-Ground in your Inbox, but news of great new ideas from the world’s most original and articulate minds.
After all, these are unprecedented times.