Word Hate 2: We like the sound of that: proven, orchestrate, uxorious

It happens every now and again that a word becomes current, and sometimes even evicts a more proper word, simply because people like the sound of it. ‘Proven’ is a case in point. ‘Proved’ is the past participle of ‘to prove’. It used to be absolutely normal usage – yet you never hear it now. Everybody says ‘proven’. (E.g.: “It has not been proven that climate change is man-made.”) I seriously believe it’s because some media journalist has over-used the Scottish legal phrase ‘not proven’ a few times on telly, and then it has been picked up by people who think it sounds somehow better, weightier, more meaningful, more irrefutable than ‘proved’.

Another one is ‘orchestrate’. Hardly anyone says ‘organise’ any more – everything has been ‘orchestrated’ – even tea at the village hall. ‘Orchestrate’ sounds a lot better, you see. As if you’ve put a lot more effort into it. Of course, the use of ‘orchestrate’ as a metaphor used to be rather brilliantly deployed – ‘a well- orchestrated whispering campaign’, for example, suggested organising the right person to say the right thing at the right time to the right listener – the way a composer might deploy her instrumental forces to thrilling effect. That subtle meaning has, sadly, now vanished completely.

Lastly, and slightly differently, lots of people LOVE the sound of the word ‘uxorious’. It sounds feminine, sexy (it’s that ‘uck’ sound at the beginning…), luxurious, a bit naughty, possibly even wearing a pair of really rather good quality silk stockings. It must surely mean that. Sadly, usages such as “the uxorious Kate Winslet” just don’t work – unless the celebrity world has moved on since I started writing this and she has left her husband and got married to a woman. It’s possible.

I can’t complain – I love the sound of words – especially ‘lollop’ – and for people to pick up on lovely sounds and try to make them into what they want them to be is hardly reprehensible. But gosh, I hate it all the same.

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Published in: on December 23, 2009 at 12:56  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Uxorious: I blame Anthony Minghella, who used this word very beautifully in his Oscar acceptance speech (The English Patient). But Lady E, what’s the adjective for a wife who loves her husband?

    • Actually it is used in the movie, by Clifton, ironically, because of course then his wife buzzes off with Almasy.

      Word for wives who love their husbands: heroic. (This may sound sexist, but I’m only fighting back. I must tell you that ‘uxorious’ has frequently used in a pejorative way, as if it’s somehow unmanly for a chap to love his wife too much. Tchah.)

    • Maritorious.

      I googled uxorious and got http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org
      ….nuff said


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