The Most Used Word on Campus

University of Arizona

Spend an enlightening lunch listening to students converse at the University of Arizona student center, and you cannot fail to hear one word repeated endlessly from everyone around you.  In fact, when I began to notice the overuse of this word, I decided to count the number of times it was uttered by just the student nearest me–who was attempting to describe her reaction to a party attended the previous weekend.  (In three minutes she used the word 93 times.)  Interrupting a professor who was eating his lunch outside, I divulged this, and was told, “I try to make my students aware of the word, because when they talk to me it’s difficult to understand what they’re saying.”  The word is ubiquitous.  Actually, no, that’s not THE WORD.  I now fear to use THE WORD because I might catalyze it, thereby infecting my writing with its regressive contagion.  THE WORD obviously has a viral quality to it, even on campuses of so-called higher learning.  Say it or write it too often, and I might soon discover that I can’t stop the momentum.  It will muscle itself into every sentence I utter, until I’m reduced to stuttering it in convulsive, brain-frozen exasperation.  Can a single word be a life form?  Can it multiply so prodigiously that only ceramic earplugs worn 24/7 have any hope of protection?  How would you avoid being influenced by peers using THE WORD the way a soldier uses a machine gun on full auto?  Perhaps what’s needed is a high tech helmet, with built in sensors that screen out THE WORD.  A computer feedback device inside could interpret what the lifeform is trying to tell you, and also rate the intelligence of that lifeform via a frequency counter.  A video camera could capture and project their expressions inside the helmet, rendering them as a virtual display that could be analyzed and decoded.  That way, the wearer wouldn’t have to think or remember prior prevarications.  College administrators could monitor their use of THE WORD, and reward or punish them accordingly.  Maybe a shock can be delivered, if not measured in amperage, then in flashed statistics of all the innumerable products and services where THE WORD appears, waiting to be clicked.  This pop cultural meme, this inescapable social currency, this post-modern, pre-apocalyptic marketing tool is even now taking over every space, not just cyberspace.  Unite with us, now, oh ye in defense of the language, as we oppose muddy thoughts where breeds these horrid bugs!  Would you like to learn more?
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Recruit:  Yeah, like, what do I, like, have to do to, like, earn my citizenship, man?

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