Words of advice on words

Merriam-Webster Dictionary has released its list of the words that defined 2023. At the top of the list was “authentic.” The dictionary’s website said “authentic” saw a substantial increase in 2023, driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity and social media.

I don’t know if we have a word of the year in West Virginia — you can come up with your own — but it did get me thinking about words and phrases I use every day, either on the air or in a commentary, that I would like to phase out. Here is a list of some, in no particular order, along with my reasoning.

  • Gamechanger. This will be easy for me. I swore off of this a couple years ago because it was attached to every economic development announcement in West Virginia, no matter how modest. “The repaving of two miles of W.Va. 7 is a real gamechanger!” If West Virginia had as many gamechanger economic developments as have been announced over the years, then our game would have actually been changed!
  • Existential crisis. I often relied on that crutch during the past year. When writing or talking about one problem or another in the state, I would throw out the term “existential crisis” to try to give my point additional heft. I’ll try in 2024 to reserve that phrase for something that has to do with the meaning and purpose of life.
  • Crisis. While I’m at it, I need to be more judicious with the word “crisis.” I’m not going to swear off completely, because sometimes there really is a crisis. But if every problem or issue is a crisis, then what do we call it when there is a real crisis? (No, don’t say existential crisis.)
  • With all due respect. That phrase is supposed to be a softener before you say what you really mean and somehow prevent a guest from responding in kind. For example, “With all due respect, you’re an idiot.” Fortunately, I have gotten away from using that phrase very often, except as a joke on our 3 Guys podcast.
  • I hear you. This is the kinder, gentler version of “with all due respect,” because I probably didn’t hear you at all. I’m patronizing you until I can get my point across.
  • Let me ask you this. I confess that I sometimes say this in an interview when, frankly, I’m trying to think of what to ask next. As the host, we can all assume that I will be asking questions. So, when you hear me say this, know that my brain is working feverishly to catch up.
  • I have to ask. See above.
  • You know, uh, um. These are also annoying time fillers, and a bad habit that is going to be hard to break because, uh, you know, they have become part of my speech pattern over a lifetime.
  • Circle back. This is a catchphrase for me wrapping up an interview in an ongoing story, as in “Thanks for the update. Circle back with me when you have new information.” Or I can just call you and we can forget about the whole circle thing.
  • Move the needle. I often use this phrase when talking about politics as in, “Will candidate X’s ad campaign move the needle?” I should just ask whether they will get more votes.
  • Agree to disagree. I suspect we don’t agree at all, even about disagreeing.

And this is only a partial list. I could go on. I have a lot of work to do if I want to remove those worn out phrases from my vocabulary in 2024.

But, you know, it is what it is.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at [email protected].