Scott Hardie | April 17, 2024
Are there any terms or phrases that make you permanently disregard someone who uses them in a discussion? I don't mean phrases with which you disagree, but phrases that make you decide that nothing further that this person says is to be taken seriously.

For me, "late-stage capitalism" is thrown around way too much on the left, apparently to mean anything about economics that people don't like. Eggs cost too much? Late-stage capitalism. Favorite restaurant closed? Late-stage capitalism. Can't land a job? It must be late-stage capitalism, even if there's another obvious explanation like a weak resume or sketchy references or poor interview skills. I just find it unbearably ridiculous that people think that they sound smart when using this academic phrase outside of a PhD dissertation, when instead it makes them sound dumb, like they're just quoting something that they saw other people saying online. The right uses "woke" in a similar way: People stopped saying "woke" seriously during the Trump administration, so criticizing "wokeism" or anything "woke" makes you sound more out of touch with each passing year.

What are your conversational turn-offs?

Scott Hardie | May 19, 2024
"TERF" is another one for me. We've already talked about how the fight over J.K. Rowling feels a dishonest proxy war, so I won't rehash that, but "TERF" seems to come up whenever Rowling does: I hear people lob the insult at her constantly, as though that term is in common everyday parlance, and as though the relative acceptability of different viewpoints within feminist circles are obvious to everyone. All that people accomplish with their casual use of that term is sounding ridiculous. (If you're unfamiliar, the term means "trans-exclusionary radical feminist," a form of feminism that deliberately ignores the concerns of transgender women. That's part of a whole other debate worth having as a society and "TERF" can definitely be useful in that context academically, but it feels at home in a college paper and not in a phony slacktivist Facebook post.)

Samir Mehta | May 20, 2024
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Scott Hardie | June 13, 2024
Yep, agreed on all of your points.

The adjective "woke" used to have specific and non-controversial meaning on the left (roughly analogous to "red-pilled" on the right), but conservative pundits exaggerated it to apply to anything at all on the left that they wanted people to get mad about, especially the most ridiculous-sounding ideas. Nobody uses it seriously any more, so I roll my eyes whenever I hear it now, because it's invariably said disingenuously by rabble-rousers.

"Trauma" and "gaslight" are rapidly losing all meaning due to overuse. "Gaslight" is nearly equivalent to "lie" at this point. Some of that is deliberate abuse of the language of therapy to manipulate people, which I find fascinating and unsettling as a phenomenon. But surely some of it is just lazy and inconsiderate use of language, the same sort of transference of meaning from adjacent terms that led to "literally" becoming a mere intensifier.

The potential loss of "problematic" saddens me because it's such a precise term for making a point, but yeah, it has a lot of culture-war baggage at this point and I wouldn't mind hearing it much less. Has the word itself become problematic?

Scott Hardie | June 17, 2024
"Narcissist" also gets overused too much lately. It is beginning to mean anyone who is merely rude. That's unfortunate, because besides the clinical definition, it means something specific and useful in culture that shouldn't be lost.

Samir Mehta | June 17, 2024
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Erik Bates | June 18, 2024
"Lawfare" is a new one to me. Interesting concept.

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