On Friday, The New Yorker's Ben Greenman kicked off a contest called Questioningly, something of a social media crowdsourcing game in which editors put forth a weekly question and ask readers to respond with "funny, witty, sharp, amusing, ingenious, or whimsical" answers by Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #tnyquestion. The first installment of the game asked, "If you could eliminate a single word from the English language, what would it be?" We, in response, asked "If you could eliminate a single word from The New Yorker, what would it be?" (We provided options ranging from coöperation to spectre to questioningly; some commenters weighed in with their own—thusly, for example.)
Now, the results are in for both contests (ours because we decided they were and goodbye, coöperation!; The New Yorker's because this had always been a planned sort of thing). Alas, the results for The New Yorker's banned words contest are distinctly...underwhelming. What terrifying, putrid, gobbledygook of a disgruntled word specimen was cast out from the communication fold?
SLACKS. Yes, slacks. Those are pants. Those are things that First Ladies, some of them, in times of "progress," have been known to wear. They're trousers but not, and certainly not jeans, or leggings, or jeggings, or tights. They're slacks. It's a word our grandma used to use—"How did you get all these grass stains on your new slacks?" They're evocative, mostly, of khakis, but possibly pantsuits too. When the word is stretched out, "Have you seen my slaaaaacks?" it is particularly resonant, and possibly multisyllabic. If made into a gerund, the word means something entirely different. One who slacks does not necessarily wear slacks: Such a person is more likely to wear PJs. Slacks! It is a good, solid, reasonable word. A name for something. It's as American as apple pie, as fashionable as, well, that depends on where you bought them. Slacks as a word does not bear the transcontinental dishonor of actually meaning underpants in certain cultures. Also, slacks: Easier to spell and less high-falutin' than trousers. Slackety-slackety, clackity-clackity, this word has a place in the canon! The Gap and Banana Republic and American Apparel ALL love slacks. Try getting them to change that.