Over the last decade, it has come to my attention that “annoy” has become the default word of American children to describe negative forces ranging from mildly irritating to downright horrendous.

When our boys were in elementary school, they would come home complaining that this kid or that was “annoying.”  I couldn’t get to the bottom of it - how, exactly, were these children “annoying?”  Even under intense cross examination, I couldn’t get my boys to give up any corroborating evidence for why they had chosen that word.

Gradually I figured out that the PC ethos of the school had conveyed to the kids that this word was the only acceptable criticism they were to have in their vocabulary.  Nothing else was to be said. 

Just one problem.  Because they applied the word indiscriminately, it lost its meaning.  Furthermore, the overuse of “annoying” means the rich vein of precise words in our language is no longer being mined. 

Yesterday afternoon, I was driving home listening to NPR when a story came on about the alarming growth of skinhead groups in southern California.  A high school girl was interviewed on the subject.  Yes, she said, these groups existed at her school.  She would see boys in plaid shirts marching around the halls saying “Hi Hitler” (direct quote).  Their FaceBook pages would spell out their loathing for anyone not white.  They would distribute loud hate rock CDs to elementary kids.  All of this, she said, she found “really annoying.”

NeoNazis.  In high school.  Spreading their hateful rhetoric to impressionable young children.  This is ANNOYING?  Annoying is the buzzing of a fly in your bedroom at night.  Or the sun in your eyes at a picnic.  Or the realization that another screwball Jim Carrey movie is coming out.  To me, annoying is something that is, at most, mildly bothersome. 

How pathetic that ”annoying” is the only acceptable word of criticism for those born after 1990.  Is the English language really that impoverished?  Are people really so incapable of higher critical thought that every negative thing registers at the same mark on the reacto-o-meter?   No, and I hope not.

I’m sure we can all think of many words that are far more apropos for Neo Nazi behavior than “annoying.”  How about:  appalling, reprehensible, despicable. Satanic?

I’m sure Roget is now wondering why he bothered compiling that book of his.   Enough with “annoy,” already!

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