Cleaning the vocabulary closet |

Cleaning the vocabulary closet

Barry Smith

It’s time to reduce my vocabulary. I know that increasing one’s vocabulary is what you’re supposed to strive for, but I’ve recently realized that for much of my adult life I’ve been using the same handful of words over and over again, so it’s time to clean out the vocabulary closet and make room for some fresh, new words to use over and over again until I die.But, before I do, I need touse them just one more time.SQUID – Everything about this word is perfect for my needs, which is probably why I’m so obsessed with it. It’s a funny sounding word, a funny looking word, and it represents a very funny creature. I’ve written poems about squid, used squid as a punch line in daily life, said squid at random times just for the hell of it. I kept a rubber cuttlefish on my desk for years. When people asked about this strange rubber thing I was quick to explain that the cut-tlefish is a cousin of the squid. This didn’t answer their question, but it gave me a chance to say “squid.” If I would have been able to find a rubber squid for my desk, then who knows how my life would have turned out?It’s not that I care that much about actual squid, it’s really just the word that hooked me. If those one-eyed, 10-tentacled undersea creatures were known as “beets” then I probably would never have given them a second thought. Time to move on.Potential replacement: Lungfish.HENCEFORTH – Why would I ever use “henceforth” in the first place? I’m chugging along saying things like, “Yeah, dude, wow, uh huh, no way, cool, yeah,” and then suddenly out comes a “henceforth” and everybody quickly looks at the floor, embarrassed for me. Potential replacement: So.CLEARLY – I may have to let this one go slowly, as it is clearly a very useful word. But I think it’s probably unnecessary. It’s clearly unnecessary. Still, I seem to use it all the time. It makes me feel like I’m really summing things up, really driving my point home. Also, it is a fine launching point for extreme sarcasm, as in, “Clearly, you have the situation under control.”Potential replacement: Indubitably.KUMQUAT – Well, this one’s pretty obvious. I’m not even sure I could pick a kumquat out of a lineup, and I’m only sorta guessing that it’s a fruit, though if it turned out to be a vegetable I wouldn’t be shocked. It’s just a chance to say a dirty-sounding word to semihumorous effect, so say it I do. Or did. Often. But no more. Adios, kumquat. Potential replacement: Rutabaga.PERHAPS – True story: One day, while in high school, my father asked me if I was the one who had neglected to flush the toilet in the hall bathroom. I stroked my chin for a moment, then replied, “Perhaps.”We’d all relocated to California from the Deep South, and my word choice was an obvious indication that I was gettin’ all uppity. In fact, in the lecture that followed, I was accused of “philosophizin’,” an activity which was frowned upon in our household, especially when practiced in lieu of toilet flushing.So I adopted that word as my rebel yell. For the past 20 years it’s been “perhaps this” and “perhaps that.” Just yesterday I said to someone, “I’ll see you there, perhaps,” when what I was actually thinking was, “I’ll see ya’ll there, then, huh?” Enough, already.Potential replacement: Maybe.INDEED – See “Henceforth.” Unless I am channeling Sir John Gielgud, I can think of no reason why this word ever needs to come from my mouth again. Potential replacement: Indeedy.(Next time: Barry decides to give up outdated facial expressions.)Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at

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