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Pet Peeve #14:
Ginormous is NOT a real word

Filed under: Pet Peeves

I refuse to accept that “Ginormous” is a word. I know Merriam-Webster added it to their dictionary in 2007, but it still sounds comical. In my book, it’s still not a real word.

What makes it so utterly absurd is that it is the combination of two words — gigantic and enormous — which basically have the exact same definition as the resulting new word. What is the point?

It’s a fairly sad commentary on the state of our language and society that we have resorted to smashing together existing words in an attempt to derive new synonyms, rather than using the wide variety of perfectly good alternatives anyone could find in a good thesaurus. Or perhaps that is the problem? How many people actually own a thesaurus these days?  [Well, there’s always, but I doubt those enamored with the word “ginormous” bother with that either.]

As a case in point, to name a few, here are some synonyms one could use instead:

colossal, enormous, gargantuan, gigantic, huge, humongous, immeasurable, immense, jumbo, mammoth, massive, monstrous, mountainous, prodigious, stupendous, super-colossal, titanic, tremendous

The very fact that ginormous sounds like a word crafted by a tween sometime in the last decade should automatically disqualify it from inclusion in our dictionaries.  According to Merriam-Webster, it dates back to 1948, although references to its usage in print and literature do not seem to date back quite as far. The New York Times, on the other hand, calls it a neologism — a newly created word. Whatever the case of its history may be, I still don’t see it as a word my grandparents’ generation would have included in their conversations. It’s really only relatively recently that it seems to have gained popularity. However, I don’t know if that helps bolster this nonsensical word’s validity. More likely it provides further evidence of the dumbing down of our culture.

So does inclusion in a dictionary legitimize a word? I don’t think so. In the end society really makes the call on that one. But, if it was society that invented this moronic word, that doesn’t give me hope about our linguistic future.

And then, while watching the news the other day, I was amazed and horrified as the anchor described something as ginormous. He sounded ridiculous, and certainly far from authoritative and professional as we’d expect the news to at least pretend to be.  I guess my response would have been more appropriate if I had said “W.T.F.”, but in case you don’t realize, I don’t like to be that brief.

July 19, 2009 | Posted by Ian | Permalink | 22 Comments
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