Stop Making Sense

Last night I attended a party at my friend Zoe's teeny-tiny adorable Silver Lake cottage on a hill, which comfortably holds a maximum of maybe fifteen people, if all the rooms are utilized.  (Note: this word will be discussed at greater length; read on...) By midnight it was so crowded one had to snake one's way through the guests, sort of like modern improv Twister. At one point I found myself thrust into the middle of a conversation between four or five people, including Damian, the fine, fancy lad in this picture (who was there with his equally irresistible girlfriend, so settle down everyone).

Stop Making Sense

Damian was a bit of a cunning linguist (sorry, I just had to), and he was talking about the annoying redundancy of certain words. He was particularly stuck on the utter uselessness of the word utilize, which he insisted was merely a more officious (his word, though I kept hearing efficious, which is not a word at all) way to say "use." "There is no time when the word use will not suffice," he insisted. I disagreed, asserting that there is a subtle difference between the two. "Trust me, I've researched this one," he said. Dictionary freak that I am, I climbed over a few people to try to locate one on the shelves, but I didn't think an Italian phrase book would help me prove my point. So that topic pretty much fell flat, and I was left to admire Damian's charmingly mismatched sartorial joie de vivre (last night's outfit was a cacophony of plaids and stripes in shades of blue and green), cursing the fact that I'd forgotten my camera. But then I heard him say (since he was still standing about a foot away from me), "Yeah, we're called OK Go."         Bingo! So he's google-able (second only to the dictionary in its, um, utilizability). I'd just heard the Chicago band's song, "A Million Ways," on Jonesy's Jukebox, and its Elvis Costello-fronts-Gang of Four groove is pretty infectious. And the one-camera video is even better; whoever choreographed this cheesy backyard disco line dance has a long career ahead of them. Kudos to the boys for (almost) keeping a straight face the whole time.

    Damian, this is for you, straight outta the good book:

Usage Note: A number of critics have remarked that utilize is an unnecessary substitute for use. It is true that many occurrences of utilize could be

replaced by use with no loss to anything but pretentiousness, for example, in sentences such as They utilized questionable methods in their analysis or We hope that many

commuters will continue to utilize mass transit after the bridge has reopened. But utilize can mean "to find a profitable or practical use for." Thus the sentence The

teachers were unable to use the new computers might mean only that the teachers were unable to operate the computers, whereas The teachers were unable to utilize the new computers

suggests that the teachers could not find ways to employ the computers in instruction.

posted by Steffie Nelson


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