Value of Words
Anything in the world that is considered scarce, comes at a cost. This is the standard reality purported by economics professors everywhere. This includes words. The more scarce a particular word is, the higher the value. What’s more is that words are like currency–it’s what we use as a medium of exchange in addition to being a store of value.
This graph is telling me that we are overusing particular words. Moreover, that these words have lost their punch. Just look at the extremes. How is terrible, awful, and appalling “less bad” than “very bad”? Whenever I use terrible, I want it to feel terrible–like more than “very bad” terrible. On the other extreme, how is “perfect” not at a 10? There is nothing better than perfect. It’s perfect!
I imagine it’s because we have exaggerated our value judgments to the point that the words have lost their value. Now, instead of something being satisfactory, we respond with “awesome” or “fantastic” or any of those other words in the 8-range. Similarly, we’ve done the same thing on the lower end of the spectrum. Words have not necessarily lost their meaning (some of it for sure) but they have become watered down.
In economics, we call this inflation. Perhaps we should start calling it exaggeration, instead? It would be comical to read the next Fed report saying something like, “Economic activity increased at a solid pace over the second half of 2017, and the labor market continued to strengthen. Measured on a 12-month basis, exaggeration has remained below the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) longer-run objective of 2 percent.”
Do you exaggerate?
I have definitely contributed to the watering down of words. I respond to something that’s good, with “awesome!” or “great!” But, for those who know me, my close-to-perfect word substitute is “Groovy.”