Every so often I get stuck on a word, using it to excess, permitting it to pepper pretty much everything I say.
I’m usually unaware that I’m doing this, blithely blabbing away repetitively, noticing it only after someone points it out – often to mortifying mirth – or, sometimes, in an attempt to squeeze it into every possible sentence, I contort its meaning so much that even I begin to detect my unconscious infatuation with the word.
My first word crush was with “humongous.” And what a humongous crush it was! The roller coaster was humongous, the center on the other team was humongous, that hill we rode our bikes down was humongous, the booger he flicked at my head was humongous. You get the idea. Pretty soon “humongous” morphed into an all-purpose modifier meaning something along the lines of “really big, really memorable, really cool, or all of the above.” And then one day one of the guys gave me a weird look, and asked what the hell “humongous” meant anyways, and why was I always saying it, and I realized then and there that I’d fallen in love with a word and I couldn’t admit that in front of the guys so I looked down and resolved to never utter it again.
And I didn’t, assisted, I’m sure, by this serial monogamist’s ability to shift his affections quickly and completely from word to word, usually unconsciously. I’ve loved and left so many words, I can’t remember most of them. Only a few stick out. I recall with shame my liberal use of “bathetic” and “plebeian” during my young snob days. How pathetic. Oh, and I overused “pathetic” then too. “Concatenation,” “synchronicity,”and “serendipity” somehow had their days in the sun. I’ll never succeed in submerging the painful memories of working the word “heuristic” into most of my grad school conversations for a month or so. What the hell was I thinking? And most painful of all was my realization, late in life, that I’d not only been overusing the word “excoriate,” I’d been mispronouncing it so that it sounding like “excruciate,” which is exactly how it felt when a work colleague pointed it out to me in a packed conference room.
The other day I realized I’d fallen for a new word after catching myself using it for the fiftieth time since lunch. My new love word is “absurd.” Their aggressive position on that issue is absurd. The shiny spinning rims on that Hummer are absurd. The Hummer itself is absurd. My need for disco music is absurd. The President is absurd. The other side, they’re absurd too. Television is all absurd. Writing anonymous blog posts that reveal while they conceal is just absurd. Trudging through an incredibly fortunate life under a perpetual cloud of depression is, well, so absurd it’s depressing. It’s all absurd.
And then I checked the dictionary definition, saw that “absurd” has two meanings, one of them “ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous” and I thought, yeah, that’s exactly how things seem to me. Nothing makes sense. Everything is wrong. All I see are contradictions. Life is imbalanced. There is no point. And then I read the other definition, for “absurd” as a noun, as in “the absurd,” and it was:
the state or condition in which human beings exist in an irrational and meaningless universe and in which human life has no ultimate meaning
and I thought EXACTLY! It is all The Absurd. What a great word. No wonder I’m so attached to it. And, to illustrate the absurdity of it all, at the same time I’m feeling this frisson of rare pleasure with this discovery of my new love interest, I know that my predilection to see the absurd in everything is at the very root of my depression. Dwelling on the absurd, I’m like a smoker with lung cancer puffing away, or an alcoholic with cirrhosis drinking away. I know this, yet I do it anyways. Maybe I can’t stop. Or maybe I can, and choose not to. Either way, it’s all so absurd.