6 Popular Internet Words That I Have Grown to Dislike

The English language is a constantly evolving one, and that keeps things interesting.Words are fascinating in that they can elicit a strong response from some people. I know a few people who can't stand the word "moist," for instance. Some words have a lifespan of sorts, initially starting as a useful description of a specific thing, with the definition then changing over time. A few of these words and phrases feel like they should be retired at some point, having lost all real meaning, or because they should be replaced to allow for changes that have occurred. Here are a few that I think need to be kicked to the curb, or recreated in some other form.

6. Hipster

Hipster is a relatively old word, having been used for decades, defined by Webster as "a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns (as in jazz or fashion)," and that seems to be a perfectly good meaning for the word. My friends have used the term since at least the '80s, to describe folks we considered edgy or chasing various cutting edge musical or cultural trends.

Now it seems to have been chosen as the term for a specific, self consciously weird recent subculture with specific dress codes and interests. I even end up using the term, despite hating its modern use, so people will know what I'm talking about when I'm describing some young guy with a lumberjack beard, a funny old T-shirt, skinny jeans, drinking swill beer. I object to those people getting the claim to the word "hipster". Let's just call them something like "clownbeards" instead.

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5. Troll

No, not the bigger scarier version of a goblin, some monster from fairy tales and fantasy novels, but the more vexing version. Creeps on the Internet who sow discord by posting inflammatory material in online groups intended to provoke others into pointless arguing, or by jumping into online conversations with abusive attacks. Most terms with Internet origins mutate over time, and troll seems to be a perfect example of that, but lately it seems to get used a lot by people in a way that doesn't work. Basically a lot of folks will call a person a troll simply because they don't agree with his or her opinion on something. Almost anyone who's spent a lot of time online in forums or on social networking sites will have encountered the classic Internet troll, but a person doesn't achieve troll status just by disagreeing with someone or posting material that someone out there might take issue with. 

This looks like a pretty accurate photo of most internet trolls.
This looks like a pretty accurate photo of most internet trolls.

4. Grammar Nazi I'm going to take a perhaps unpopular position and defend Grammar Nazis to an extent. Almost everyone is on the Internet interacting with other people, in what mostly is still an environment where people communicate through writing. If a person can't master basic grammar by the time they're out of high school, perhaps they should investigate other ways to communicate. If an adult can't figure out the differences between "your" and "you're," for example, maybe we need a few Grammar Nazis out there doing the unpopular job of correcting people.

I've seen examples of written communication online that came from adults that were so plagued with misspellings, words used incorrectly, and weird net abbreviations that it might as well have been written in Russian by someone addicted to OxyContin.

On the other hand, no one needs some smarty pants creep to swoop in and try to discredit an otherwise well reasoned response simply because someone accidentally dropped a typo in there somewhere. Primarily I just dislike the term. Nazis were monstrous, using the term as a descriptor for someone who is just a pain in the ass or overly strict seems a little lame to me.

3. Mansplain

Mansplaining is a term adopted to describe a specific type of sexist behavior - when a man condescendingly explains or talks down to a woman about something she knows as much or more about than he does.

Although that behavior is very real, and probably as old as time itself, the term came into wide use, particularly online, after a blog post by writer Rebecca Solnit titled "Men Explain Things to Me; Facts Didn't Get in Their Way." That essay described the behavior perfectly, and soon "mansplaining" was off and running as a new and useful word.

The issue I take with mansplaining (and I'm not the only one) is that as time has gone on, the term has been used poorly to describe a lot of very different boorish behaviors by men. When a term is used to criticize a person, it should be used properly.

Now, I make no excuses for men who act like asses when speaking to women, and I especially don't condone speaking down to them or making an assumption that a person knows less because of his or her gender. That sort of entitled discourse is pathetic, and deserves criticism. But when a word like "mansplain" is used too liberally, after a point people don't take it as seriously as they probably should, and maybe it's time to find a better word. Mansplaining also sounds like a train-wreck to me, an awkward collision of words that sounds grating . 

Pictured: Something Epic.
Pictured: Something Epic.

2. Literally

OK, "literally" has a very specific meaning. It means to take something exactly as it is said. For instance, saying someone was "literally hopping mad" would mean the person was so angry they were jumping up and down in fury. The word's synonyms include "precisely" and "truly," but people use the word so incorrectly and so often that several dictionaries have recently included a second definition, and one that is technically completely incorrect. That second meaning is an informal one as defined currently by Webster's:

"Used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not literally being true."

So congrats, word thieves, you've broken the dictionary. This is a case of a perfectly good word being misused so often that various dictionaries felt compelled to include the incorrect definition.

1. Epic and Fail

Strictly speaking, an "epic" as a noun is a really long poem describing the heroic adventures of legendary people or the history of a nation. As an adjective it means "relating to, or having the characteristics of an epic," for instance, some act of monumental proportion could be described as "epic".

It's not a descriptive of some dude's beard, or someone's Frisbee golf abilities.

"Fail" means to be unsuccessful at, or to neglect to do something. It didn't get used as an interjection of disapproval or as a synonym for "sucks" until recently, and those uses...fail.

Now, combining "epic" and "fail" together into a statement of "epic fail!" might be one of the more irritating recent slang inventions, and frequent use might get a person socially shunned. That's my hope anyway.

Anyone who reads a lot, or who spends a lot of time on Internet forums, is likely to eventually pick up on a few words they dislike or that they feel are misused. There are lots of examples that could be made, and this list only focuses on a very small number of them that I particularly dislike. English changes, and it seems to me that widespread use of the Internet has accelerated that change in many cases.


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