D  e  s  e  r  t     E  x  p  o  s  u  r  e  May 2006


Wage War
The fight to raise the minimum wage moves to the local level.

Birth of the Blues
Behind the scenes of the Silver City Blues Festival.

Inside Stories
Voices from the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility.

Going with the Flow
Get your feet wet at the Gila River Festival.

Magic Flute
Las Cruces musician Randy Granger plays his way to the top.

Getaways: Strip Tease
Can you have fun in Las Vegas without gambling? You bet.

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Words to No Longer Live By

Delete these from your dictionary and lighten
your linguistic load.


Time seems to be slipping by too fast to orchestrate any serious spring cleaning, but I feel I can still eke in some quality time to simplify life. After all, nothing frees up the spirit like the euphoria one can achieve by throwing away stupid stuff you no longer need. It's like popcorn for the soul, and the targets of cleaning can be more than just empty Cuervo bottles from under the sofa and last year's dusty roach traps. It's time to put on the rubber work gloves, roll up our collective sleeves, and clean out some stupid words from the English language. You don't need any harsh solvents or smelly deodorizers, just a fat black marker and your personal copy of Webster's dictionary.

First off, I found a hoary chestnut of a word that is as obsolete as an eight-track tape player: "ahoy." As in, "Ahoy, matey, I see the scurvy has taken your nose clean off," or, "Ahoy, Capitan! I believe your mi--enmast has found its way onto my poop deck!" It seems to apply only to nautical scenarios, and even then as a declarative salutation. But I wager that its only use in recent history has been by giggling drunken yachtsmen seeking the thrill of landing a blue marlin while fueled up on Pina Coladas at the marina. "Ahoy" has lost its significance, and a true sign that the poor word has jumped the vocabulary shark was when it was used in the brand name for a chocolate chip cookie that tastes like a blend of cardboard and drywall insulation. Maybe some stinky old dried-up Maine lobstermen will miss it, but I think the rest of us can dispense with the word "Ahoy." Out it goes.

Next up is a word that is controversial due to factors beyond its control. A good, honest, hard-working word, its use has been limited by its unseemly pronunciation and unfortunate spelling. For example, if I am with a friend who refuses to buy a round of beer when it's his turn, I might categorize his behavior as "niggardly." Before you recoil in outrage and vent your righteous indignation on the innocent editor of this fine publication, and drop a dime to the Rev. Al Sharpton to organize a series of marches outside Chateau Lightcap, realize that this word has been around about 300 years longer than, uh, that "other" word. But the word "niggardly" packs an amazing punch, and is so misunderstood that officials have been fired or forced to resign for using it whilst among the unwashed masses. In 1999, a representative of the mayor's office in Washington, DC, created a storm of controversy when he used the word "niggardly" to describe some budget cuts. He was forced to resign to placate an angry mob that apparently did not have access to a dictionary. The word "niggardly," while a fine word in its own right, needs to be tossed out for its sheer volatility in a world that devalues expansive vocabularies.

I'm going to really enjoy tossing out "irregardless," as contemptible and worthless a non-word as ever existed. This linguistic bon mot has flourished in a word of bubble-headed bleached blondes that read us the news on television every night, and where some uniformed citizens have mistaken the right to free speech as an obligation to do so without the constraints of so-called "real" words. Check it out: I can own a pair of boots "regardless" of whether I have two feet. Can I own a pair of boots irregardless of whether I have two feet? Isn't that a double negative? Is it some kind of metamorphosis, where "irrespective" and "regardless" merged together in the kind of unholy union that normally produces three-headed fish and French presidents? It's a contemptible waste of perfectly good consonants and four vowels that really need to hang out in better neighborhoods. Throw this stupid word out with all due haste, and wash your hands when done.

Look at this—we have two words that have similar yet different meanings, and are spelled and pronounced almost identically. Now why in heaven's name do we have both "affect" and "effect"? It's like having two different kinds of corkscrews of different design; both are adept at un-stoppering your bottle of Beaujolais bliss, but who needs two corkscrews for one bottle? Especially if the one shaped like a lever was spelled "corkscrew" and the one shaped like a "T" was spelled "corkscrewe." I know there is a difference between "affect" and "effect," but it's a pretty fine line we're talking here, and I'm tired of avoiding use of the word for fear of applying it incorrectly. One of 'em has to go, and I'm not too particular about which one it is. I'll let you decide, but by tomorrow morning, there'd better be only one choice.

Whew, I think I'm breaking a sweat here. Spring cleaning can be hard work, even if it's just tossing obsolesced phonetics out. The trash bag has a lot more room, and there are plenty of other candidates for the broom. Like "X-mas." You don't have to be a Christian fundamentalist to realize the problems with that one. It looks like some depressed acronym developed specifically for a George Orwell novel. "Hors d'oeuvres" is a great example of the nation's problems with illegal immigration. This word should've never been allowed in from France. What was wrong with just saying "snack"? Words like that are why Microsoft had to invent spell check. Pencil-necked business consultants have invented soulless words like "incentivize" and "synergy" to egg on bald-headed tools at companies like Enron as they plow through our nest eggs like famished weasels. In fact, these corporate poly-words should be fed to famished weasels, with a titillating benedict sauce over them. And that's the last word on stupid words.


Henry Lightcap keeps his dictionary in Las Cruces.


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