Another of my forlorn attempts to protect the language from journalists



All you have to do is look it up!
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  • All you have to do is look it up!

Snub is a word you might think has everything going for it. It's short and simple and it bites; it sounds like what it means. For the job at hand, there couldn't be a better word.

The job? It's to communicate this idea (quoting from the Google dictionary): "rebuff, ignore, or spurn disdainfully."

But because it's short and simple and bites, snub is in danger. It's being overworked by journalists willing to squeeze the juice out of it to ratchet up situations where, if we're honest, no one was snubbed at all.

For instance, it's a lot sexier to say Oscar snubbed this actor or that rather than that it simply passed them over. So we surf the 'net and find ourselves up to our ears in headlines such as these: From the Chicago Tribune: "Oscar snubs and surprises." From Variety: "Oscars: 15 Biggest Snubs and Surprises." From PopWatch: "Oscar snubs Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, 'Inside Llewyn Davis': Which omission hurts the most?" From the Hollywood Reporter: "'Monsters University' Snub Leaves Pixar Void at the Oscars."

From HuffPo: "Oprah Winfrey's Oscars Snub Shocks Academy Award Nominations."

My drift is clear.

So what? you say. Showbiz is all about turning life into melodrama. Surely, the actors themselves want to believe they were passed over thanks to some rank prejudice or cabal. That beats facing the fact their peers decided their performances weren't good enough.

But the Oscars weren't my first recent snub sighting. Here's an ESPN headline from earlier in January: "Crawford, Seabrook disappointed by Olympics snub." A headline from the New York Daily News, "After Olympic snub, Kyle Okposo nets OT game-winner to lift Islanders over Blackhawks."

And from Yahoo Sports, "Who are the 10 biggest snubs from Team Canada’s Olympic roster?"

These were not snubs! The Yahoo articled called them snubs but at the same time made it clear they were nothing of the sort. Reporter Sean Leahy wrote:

"When general manager Steve Yzerman and his staff put together this roster, tough decisions were to be made. As you can see, the 25-man team representing the Canadians is a mix of many of the projections made leading up to Tuesday morning's announcement. With that announcement come the snubs, a.k.a. 'the guys who are next in line should someone get hurt.' Here are the 10 biggest Team Canada snubs:"

If you're snubbed you're disrespected. You're not on the short end of an agonizing decision.

But let's move on to another word, self-help. It means, according to the Google dictionary: "the use of one's own efforts and resources to achieve things without relying on others."

The word reared its trendy head in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, in an essay by Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, who—the magazine told us—is at work on a book about "our culture's obsession with self-help."

Whoever wrote the headline to the print version of Lamb-Shapiro's piece might have been in the clutches of that obsession. It says: "How two strangers gave me the self-help I'd been waiting a lifetime for."

This makes no sense at all.

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