As the chief editor of much that is published by Hall and Hall and as an avid reader of much that is published by others in our industry, I am struck by the overuse of certain words that I believe were meant to be used sparingly to describe something very special and unusual.
In my last blog, I talked about the true meaning of the word “legacy.” In that instance, I objected to the use of the word rather than the overuse of it but there is no question that it is overused as well.
My current targeted words are “iconic” and “quaint”. These are both words that appear in virtually every ranch brochure I have seen and frankly, they are both words that should be reserved for something that is very special.
Let me begin with the actual definition of quaint. “Quaint means strange and unusual in an old-fashioned and charming way”. Usually, it is used to describe a town. Well, frankly I have yet to meet a town west of the Mississippi that fits that definition! Quaint towns can be found on occasion in New England but certainly not in the American West. The truth is that we have hardly been around long enough to even qualify to be old fashioned much less charming. We do have some old structures and some of them are charming but I have yet to see anything that fits the definition of quaint.
The best definition I can find of iconic is: “Someone or something regarded as embodying the essential characteristics of an era, group, etc. If you describe someone or something as an icon, you mean that they are important as a symbol of a particular thing.” In my mind for something or someone to be iconic, it or they must be quite special and unique if they are to embody the essential characteristics of whatever it is. Nowadays it seems the standards have been lowered and at least half of the towns, mountains, rivers, and ranches in the west have become iconic. It leaves one asking the question: What essential characteristics do they embody? More often than not the answer is quite simply “none”. It is a shame because “iconic” is a term that should be reserved for the very best and it has been cheapened and abused by overuse.
Perhaps I am hypersensitive as a wordsmith, but I do mourn the loss of great and meaningful words that have been destroyed by overuse. I do not object to people using common descriptive words like “beautiful” or “spectacular” because these are terms that are more personal. Something might be beautiful to one person and ugly to another and vice versa. These words do not necessarily lose their value by being used a lot. They are expressing someone’s opinion. It’s the words that actually specifically describe something that loses their value when they are applied inappropriately.