One of the many, many detestable habits of the chattering class kids is their trick of finding some eight-bit word (perhaps vaguely remembered from the days of Vocabulary for the College Bound) and then using, using, and using it again. And again. And again. And again. And again.
Remember “gravitas” in the late ‘eighties or ‘early nineties? So-and-so had “gravitas,” so-and-so didn’t. Did the candidate have enough gravitas? Who did have gravitas?
And what exactly was this gravitas they were all yapping about? It certainly wasn’t “real” gravitas , which was and is a very unfashionable virtue. By “gravitas” they more or less meant “appearing serious, though not too serious, on camera” — or, put another way, “not being like that uncool unperson Dan Quayle.” It was a three syllable word for “approved.” So “gravitas” was everyone’s new favorite word, and it was all gravitas all the time for about eight months, and then all mention of gravitas ceased.
“Gobsmacked” was hip for a while. Now the fashionable word seems to be “nuanced” — 2,770,000 hits on Google, with the very first hit after the dictionary entries appearing in the same sentence as “Obama.” Every word the President utters is “nuanced”, because he’s sooo smart and all.
But what “nuance” are they talking about? I thought it meant “subtle, delicate shades of meaning.” Is that really a positive quality in Presidential speeches? Am I just a barbarian for thinking that speeches should be clear and unambiguous? Or is “nuanced” just another word for “I like it”?
Now we learn that Charles Krauthammer’s writing lacks “nuance” because his paraplegia prevents him from not being “able to see the situations he’s writing about.” Now, am I understanding Joe Klein’s nuances correctly? Writing at a remove precludes subtlety of expression? If that’s the case, those people Twittering in the movie queue must be pouring out torrents of nuanced eloquence.
Well, enough already. “Nuance” does not mean “hypnotic”. It does not mean “sounds nice.” It does not mean “equivocal”, it does not mean “plausibly deniable.” It does not mean “cool” or “approved” or “unlike those terribly dull people who keep wanting to bring divisive words like right and wrong into the discussion.”
I hereby declare a moratorium on the use of the word “nuanced” by any organ of the major news media.
This includes, but is not limited to, daily newspapers, their websites, and all content published therein; news and commentary on broadcast and paid television, news and commentary on broadcast and paid radio, and news and commentary on major websites.
Offenders shall, for each use of this word, handwrite the following quotation fifty times, using correct spelling and punctuation:
“Ready acceptance of vogue words…stands for the herd instinct and lack of individuality.” — H.W. Fowler
Repeat offenders shall, in addition to the above, spend an hour in the pillory, during which they shall read aloud, slowly and clearly, “Politics and the English Language” (Orwell, 1946) in its entirety.
SIGNED BY MY HAND on the 21 of May, in the Two Thousand and Ninth Year of Our Lord,