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Are There Any Superlatives Left?

Many words that used to stand out no longer do. Our over-use of them cheapens their impact, and that is a loss for us all.

Have we lost our superlatives? Simple, yet powerful words that were used sparingly years ago are now seen far too often. Are these just headline grabbers by the media? Or do we all now actually think and talk this way? Perhaps it's just over-use of the same words, which cheapens the meaning and concepts that are really important. Or, perhaps we have simply lost the ability to use a dictionary.

Crisis. It feels like there is a crisis every week. The news industry surely uses that word to inflate the importance of issues, though their urgency hardly warrants that term. We averted a congressional-manufactured fiscal "crisis" last week. Can something that has been foreseen for months that poses no imminent threat really be a "crisis"?

War. One word that has stood out since I was a kid is "war". We've had the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on cancer, and the war on terror. The recent election had one party waging a war on women. The past few years have seen troops amassing for the War on Christmas, but Christmas never loses. Well, the religious aspect of Christmas lost to retailers years ago. The actual US military conflicts the past few decades have not been wars, technically; a war requires an "declaration of war" by Congress, and the last declaration was in 1942.

Terrorist. Is everyone who wants to do us harm a terrorist? Or is it only foreigners, especially from the Middle East? Plenty of individuals and groups of Americans threaten us. Why are they not called terrorists?

Nazi. Even on these pages of Patch people have been called Nazis, though I've only noticed this in anonymous (with fake names) comments to articles. Entertainers of Rush Limbaugh's breed use this more than most. This hides the true horrors of Nazism. (That said, I did find the Soup Nazi bit on Seinfeld hilarious.)

Hero. Is everyone who serves in uniform in any capacity a hero? That includes public safety and military, of course, and even in some people's mind's professional athletes. Is any $17M per year athlete really hero? The last time I gave blood, they had stickers saying "I'm hero, I gave blood." No, I'm not a hero for that. Of course, there are truely heroic actions in the world, and they provide inspiration and deserve recognition. But if too many are called a hero, how do you call attention to something stands above the rest?

Some of these would not be quite so bad if the writers or speakers knew what they were talking about. Just a little home work and fact checking would do it. How could someone call Obama's health policies "socialist" while worshiping Nixon's conservatism, where Nixon's health proposals were far more liberal than anything seen since?

This over-use makes us immune to both the best and worst among us, it cheapens the impact of our language. I no longer know when to pay attention or just skip on to the next headline. Thankfully, at least in Belmont officials and local media tend toward the understated.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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