Turning inner space into outer space

January 2, 2015

When did "bae" become a word, and why wasn't I informed?

At some point when I wasn’t looking, people started using the word “bae” as a term of affection. In fact, this word is now used so often that both Lake Superior State University and Time magazine have suggested that it be banned.

Apparently, it’s got to the point where people use the word (it stands for “before anyone else”) to describe their ramen noodles.

My first reaction was wonderment that I could be so out of touch with popular culture that I had never before encountered a word that has been abused to the point of becoming a candidate for banishment. And anyway, it doesn’t really sound that bad. If Sonny and Cher had sung “I got you, bae,” the tune would still have been a hit.

Another one on the LSSU list that puzzled me was “cra-cra” — as in crazy. Again, I’d never heard of it, but is it really any worse that “coo-coo”? That’s one that could do with a comeback, along with the accompanying circling of an ear with a finger while pointing with the other hand at the supposedly crazy person.

The Time list, which came out in November, comes with an editor’s note apologizing for inclusion of the word “feminist.” Apparently, irate readers failed to see the nuance in this description:

feminist: You have nothing against feminism itself, but when did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party? Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.

“Feminism” is one of those words that make us think. For that reason, its clumsy misuse is no reason to ban it. There seems to be an idea that certain issues, such as equality for women, can be dealt with and then we can all move on.

What we really need is for Time and other news sites to discuss these ideas in a more responsible way. Of course, we’re going to get fed up with a word if it’s used mainly in connection with celebrity bumpf.

That said, I do have my own candidate for banishment that didn’t make either list. That would be “awesome.” This word is used so commonly that it has lost all meaning. Generally, it’s meant to be positive and encouraging, but it can also can be lazy. If you want to say something good, but don’t want to actually put thought into what you’re saying, just throw out an “awesome.”

When it comes down to it, though, this word is harmless and will eventually go away by itself.

A phrase that really needs to be terminated, because it actually has a bearing on how we treat our fellow human beings, is “enhanced interrogation.” As noted in a comment on the LSSU site, this is “a shameful euphemism for torture.” Stop it now.