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OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: No loss for words

by Brenda Looper | December 15, 2021 at 3:32 a.m.
Brenda Looper

There's been a bit too much stress in my life lately, from my brother's recent death to an upcoming surgery for me. Sunday, there was an update to my tablet's operating system that rendered my iPad's Apple Mail useless (problematic since I use it to deal with page proofs) and caused features of Words With Friends 2 to disappear.

Monday, I got to deal with a seemingly endless attempt to contact someone at my pharmacy by phone and by chat for information on prescriptions that had been shown on my computer to be in progress for several days; my hypertension medication, which I was out of, was one of the prescriptions in question. Obviously it was much needed.

Then more features from Words With Friends disappeared, so after rebooting didn't help, I decided to log out and then log back in ... except I couldn't log back in because apparently logging out meant that I'd requested my account be deleted (???).

I'm not exactly a fan of technology at the moment.

Words, though, don't disappoint me, even those that are overused or misused. You can't do much to spoil a word nerd's love for words. Even the most annoying give us pleasure in the reviling of them, which makes the joy of the beautiful and funny words all the more pleasurable. Many of our readers feel the same way.

Fred Roberson wrote me: "I enjoy the columns about old sayings. I can still hear my paternal grandparents using several of them. My grandmother said 'Well I swan' pretty regularly. My grandfather used what was always one of my favorites, the word 'bumfuzzled,' which one almost never hears today. He also used the word 'pshaw' regularly. You could tell what he meant by the tone of voice, but I don't recall ever hearing anyone else use that word."

Longtime readers know of my affection for words that are fun to say, and bumfuzzled (meaning confused or flustered) is one of my favorites. It really should be used much more than it is; there are an awful lot of us who are perpetually bumfuzzled by the things we see happening around us. The word is more descriptive and, I think, could possibly defuse some tensions if used more often. I mean, the person who is bumfuzzled seems more approachable than the one who's ticked off.

Other readers piped in with favorite phrases from the past. Evelyn Callahan said: "My dad used to say, when he'd had a bit of bad luck or had something go wrong: I've lost my rabbit's foot." Tom Weaver reported: "One my Indiana mother-in-law used is applicable today with our constant concern over new virus mutations: 'More nervous than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.'"

I think both of those applied to me over the last couple of days.

Even though words provide a lot of pleasure, there are an awful lot of them some readers are mighty tired of. Friend Sarah Ricard is exhausted by people "using 'woke' as an insult. I'm glad I'm more woke now than I was five years ago. Reading books by Black Americans has especially awakened me to the systemic racism still prevalent in the United States. My other pet peeve is 'reach out' ('contact' will suffice)."

Sarah's far from radical, but I wouldn't doubt that she gets called a radical leftist simply because she understands the concepts of systemic racism and privilege; I have some friends on the right who've been called radical leftists for the same reason. Is it any wonder my eyes are constantly rolling over politics?

As for "reach out," it gives me flashbacks to the old Ma Bell commercials, and I'd rather not revisit that time. Somewhat related, Bill Polk would like to retire "circle back." I concur.

Georgia Ross wrote: "News stories and announcements of events throughout the past year have been peppered with the phrase 'abundance of caution.' While I appreciate the caution, the phrase grates." I've been guilty of this, but ... well ... I'm pretty darned cautious. Still, I agree that more selectivity in using the phrase is advisable.

"David B." wrote of words/phrases that "are certainly overused and particularly annoying to those of us who live in the real rational world." Those included "reimagine," which he described as "a rather exclusionary or dismissive term that describes a viewpoint not resulting from actual facts, but is more of an excuse to completely disregard any valid system/approach that works when supported and not corrupted, and seeking instead to replace the system under consideration wholly with some dreamy-eyed policy or prescription lacking verifiable data and resulting in ineffectual pseudo-'solutions' not serving reality." He's also no fan of "bipartisan" or "hate speech."

He concluded: "In my humble opinion, most words we use most often perhaps should be more uplifting or optimistic and less often used desperately searching for something not truly descriptive and primarily only hyping or serving as a catalyst to mislead readers for political, religious, cultural, or other divisive reasons."

Words have been used too much lately to divide. It would be nice in the new year to try to get away from that mindset.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at Read her blog at

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