Some speaking earns staying power


Expressions come and go in popular usage just as other trends rise and fall. Who really knows how to compare “strong as an ox” these days, and who would have understood “my bad” years ago?

A few of our ways of speaking earn staying power, mainly because they seem to come so easily and are used so much. “Ain’t” made into the dictionary a long time ago even if not into language teachers’ hearts.

Have you noticed how popular the expression “Take it to the next level” has become?

Everybody tries to apply it to his or her current situation. An athlete discussing his game plan for winning is bound to say that he is ready to take his skills to the next level. It is used to describe what a certain brand of motor oil can do for your engine’s performance, or an all-natural cream can do for your skin—Take it to the next level.

It’s the promise of political figures to take the community’s or country’s development to a whole new level if elected. And some things claim to have already been elevated to the next level, such as patient care at a certain hospital or the reliability of an air conditioning unit—so says their ads. Sounds good. What does all of that mean?

I’ve tried to think of something that I could help take to the next level, if not to a whole new level. I’m still thinking.

Expressions or slang words may not appeal to everyone alike. They may strike us as clever and descriptive and we hasten to attach them to our everyday vocabulary. On the other hand, they may turn us off and we can’t bring ourselves even to voice them. In my childhood, people had an expression for that: “Hearing that makes me want to crawl under something.”

“Gone viral” is one of those that makes me want to crawl under something, if I may share my opinion. Viral has an undesirable connotation for me, and although we see beautiful scenes and touching acts of kindness gone viral, they don’t seem to fit association with that word. When I hear “It went viral,” I come nearer imagining spoken words that came out wrong or horrible acts people have committed upon one another.

Until this expression grows stale and leaves the popular scene, I will try to walk the straight and narrow to avoid the least possibility of my good or bad actions going viral and being thus labeled.

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