This should come as no surprise: words have meaning.
But we speak so casually that words seem cheap. They aren't.
Here are three examples. They are three of many that I hear and wonder, "Does the speaker know what he or she is saying?"
"Drinking the Kool Aid."
I hear this phrase nearly every week -- sometimes day after day.
It describes a group agreement to adhere to a strategy. As in, "Let's all drink the Kool Aid." Sometimes the strategy is ill; sometimes it's honorable.
But I get distracted by the origin of the phrase. It's an allusion to the massacre at Jonestown in 1978.
Goodness gracious. I think of the children.
And I wonder, "Does the speaker really want to invoke the death of innocents?"
You might call me overly sensitive. O.K. Fair enough. But why is the speaker referring to mass suicide?
"I'm anal retentive."
I'm no psychologist, but I think this refers to when we were potty trained. If that potty training was a wee bit excessive -- and what potty training isn't? -- then the Future Wiper obsesses about orderliness and cleanliness in all areas of life beyond the bathroom.
People use it when explaining their most precise habits. (See Billy Collins' "The Straightener.")
Sometimes people speak of it with a self-deprecating pride. As in a job interview, when I asked you, "What is your greatest weakness?" You said: "Oh, I'm anal retentive."
Suddenly, I'm looking at you and wondering why we are speaking of anyone's anus.
At what point did your claim -- "I'm a perfectionist." -- need to refer to the history of your rear end? Why couldn't you have just said, "I'm obsessive about typos"?
Hey! Don't squint at me like I'm a creeper. Words have meaning. And you were the one who first mentioned "anal."
Call me old-fashioned, but I think interviews should be limited to oral. (Wait. That's not good. I meant speaking. How's this: Let's stick to cranial.)
Here's a toss-up:
"Hip Hip Hooray!"
I've read that this phrase dates back to the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans. The returning army chanted "Hierosolyma Est Perdita" meaning Jerusalem is lost.
So if you say, "Hip Hip Hooray," I think of the loss of the Second Temple.
Let's agree: at this point, it's clearly my problem.
But words have meaning.