A short gripe session from your humble editor

“He went to Paris, looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.”  (Jimmy Buffet, song writer and philosopher)

I don’t have time to go to Paris. I wish I did. I have been twice, and it is one of my favorite places to visit. And the Parisians have always been nice to me, even as they relieved me of my money.

So since I’m not off to the Continent, and I have questions—or complaints, actually—that bother me so, I seek answers from readers. Well, if not answers, just an avenue to vent.

For instance, just this morning I received an email from a company that offers a photo service—visual art, if you will—with a background in deep, dark blue, through which, of course, you can’t read the text. Why do they think that’s helpful? What are they hiding behind that blue, or sometimes black, background that they don’t want me to see? It’s annoying. I will no longer pay attention to such emails.

I also don’t pay any attention to the ones that come in Chinese, or Japanese or Arabic or some other script that could just as easily be Saturnian as any earthly language.

Also, I am not a cotton merchant so I typically disregard requests from foreign companies asking to partner with me to buy and sell cotton or equipment or real estate. I’m a writer and an editor. I couldn’t sell water in the Sahara.

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Another teeny annoyance, and, please, no one take this personally since it’s a regular occurrence. We often get requests for copies of photos or stories we published in the past, sometimes long in the past. I am always willing to do a search for the items but I often need a little more information. A publication date and title is ideal but my memory is not good enough to recall all that, so I understand not being able to tie it down to a specific issue. A ballpark estimate is helpful; a ballpark the size of a Little League field is even more helpful, but I quibble. The name of a person in the photo or article is also a good place to start. And give us a bit of time.

Probably few people are bothered by this next gripe, probably only English majors, an admittedly picky lot. But some once powerful, or at least strong, words have been rendered near meaningless by overuse, misuse and abuse. Take the word “awesome,” for instance. Awesome should refer to something that inspires awe, something rare, out of the ordinary, unusual. Currently, it seems to mean something that’s maybe “pretty good.” Consider; “How was work today, hon?” “Awesome.” Unless you got a 25-percent pay raise, saved a life, cured a deadly disease or provided a surefire plan for world peace, awesome is a bit hyperbolic.

Impact also “bothers me so.” At one time and in the not too distant past, impact used as a verb was a rare and usually incorrect word choice. Now it is an over-used synonym for influence or affect and has become weakened by over exposure. I, a self-described and erratic purist of language (I make way more word choice mistakes than I’m willing to admit in print.), still refuse to use impact as a verb and often edit it out of news releases that cross my desk—because I can.

You see, words are my trade. They are the tools I use to create sentences, with which I build paragraphs that stacked one on top of another become articles. A worn out tool is of little use. The wrong tool for the job can result in “a failure to communicate,” as the Cool Hand Luke Warden so aptly expressed it. “What we have here is an inability to get our point across in an awesome and impactful way,” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Now, I feel better. And this is a lot cheaper than a trip to Europe.

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