Apropos of crutch words, apropos of despicable words, apropos of the very word-world as we know it, there's another word rant that I must bring to your immediate attention. Really. Really! Really? Oh yes. Neil Genzlinger has a lengthy diatribe in the New York Times about the overproliferation of the word really, as punctuated with that insufferable symbol the question mark, to make the word even more insufferable, in the TV world. Whenever we get a rant about a word, though, we get more uses of that word showcased, as if to really bring the point home, and in Genzlinger's discussion we see it no less than 30 times! 30 times! Really. It's almost like subsisting on pizza to make yourself stop eating it. But regardless of how he himself is contributing to the crumbling of civilization on the pages of a newspaper too couth to use certain other overused words, Genzlinger writes blithely, "Civilization crumbles a little bit almost every time I turn on the television, and a single word-and-punctuation-mark combination is inflicting the damage." Update: Jerry Seinfeld agrees with us, writing in a letter to the editor addressed to Genzlinger, "You crumbled a bit of civilization off there yourself." Oh, snap. Really.
Genzlinger goes on to clarify in his piece that what he hates is not the natural interrogative really?—as in, did you really dye your hair purple?—but really as a snark-word, "undoing 2,000 years’ worth of human progress." He clarifies further, "I’m referring to the more recent, faddish use of it: delivered with a high-pitched sneer to indicate a contempt so complete that it requires no clarification." Clarifies it he does, still further, really:
Say a co-worker shows up for a pivotal meeting wearing a plaid blouse and a polka-dot skirt. In the old days you might have said: “Well, that is certainly an interesting fashion choice. Myself, I prefer something more subdued when sitting down with a client.” Now, though, if you’ve succumbed to the loathsome trend, you will simply aim as withering a look as you can at your colleague, say “Really?” and walk away.
Wait, so, this is actually the purple hair scenario, sort of, except without commenting on what it is specifically that's making you utter the word (a dash of mystery, there), plus a withering look? This really? is akin to the seriously? (which the writers of Grey's Anatomy were pretty guilty of throwing around way too often a few million seasons ago). It utilized the uptalk-friendly question-exclamation instead of a simple question, so the more appropriate punctuation for it would probably be the interrobang, but we digress (also, that outfit could work, maybe, depending on the size of the plaid and polkas?).