Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Words that I Hate

You know how buzzwords insinuate themselves throughout society? In science: biocompatibility; in technology: convergence; in current events: whatever talking point Congress has today. Most of these are tolerable. A few are inexcusable.

My biggest gripe lately is "sustainability". 39,500,000 Google results. For comparison, that classic computer entertainment "solitaire" brings in a mere 22,600,000 results. Wikipedia gives a definition telling me that "Sustainability is a characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely." Thanks! In chemical engineering land, we call that "steady-state." Then we get into the "environmental" implications of this invented term, having to do with maintaining climate levels and the rest. Without delving into ecopolitics, do we really need a term for that? "Oh, look, we want the environment to keep going." "I'd rather have a source of energy than not." It's sort of like the Darfur example I'm so fond of: just as there really isn't anyone who likes genocide, there's nobody who actually wants the system they're buying into to break down suddenly. Nobody wants their environment to be non-sustainable. And yet? "Sustainability" has become a sine qua non for researchers and industrialists.

It's time we realized that nothing is the new anything. "(blank) is the new black" originated from the mystifying world of fashion, which might be why I'm biased against it in the first place. As long as it was confined to catwalks and flamboyant Parisians, I could ignore whichever permutation of old color-new color correlation was being promoted at the time. It's not that I necessarily liked it, but I could write it off as a vagary of that particular scene. Things are different when it goes into mainstream culture. I just saw--get this--a car product TV commercial that proclaimed "orange is the new fast." That doesn't even make any sense.

Tantamount to heresy in Web 2.0 is the notion that "tagging" is anything but messianic social revolution. Feel free to brand me a heretic, in that case. I use and really, really like the music library network Last.fm. It gives me an idea of what I listen to, it lets me know what concerts are coming up for bands that I like, and it recommends artists that I may never have heard of. That said, I do not care which bands you have seen live. I do not care if you think some music is "female vocalist" as opposed to "singer-songwriter." And I sure as hell will never understand the difference between "indie," "indie rock," "indie pop," "rock," and "pop." I will never understand this difference on the basis of legitimate authority... so why do you assume I will care what some random fan categorizes music as?

Finally, and sort of linked to the notion of "sustainability" is "footprint". Back in my day, a footprint was something you left when you walked in he mud. As I learned more about architecture and how cities worked (mostly through strategy games, to tell the truth), I learned that this word is also properly applied to how much physical space a structure is going to take up. It is not, however, proper as a metaphor to describe your effect on the environment. Carbon does not leave a footprint. It diffuses.

Currently listening: "Invasion," Eisley

1 comment:

Gina said...

LOL! Carbon diffuses. Yes it does, my friend. Yes it does.

You know what word I hate? Backpack. Certainly for much less thought-out reasons than yours, but I hate it cause it's a compound word in which the two compounds rhyme. I hate that. It is aesthetically displeasing to me.