Contemporary Lexicography Sinks to No Nadir

Yesterday, I purged numerous second-wave feminist neologisms suffixed with -woman and -person from my unparalleled personal dictionary. Furthermore, the preposterous postpositive -adjacent was newly tabulated in my Douche-English Dictionary. Some cursory research regarding this adjective’s newly daft definition led me to a strikingly (if typically) asinine article published by the New York Times, and penned by yet another of its innumerable unsightly, bewhiskered, gormless pressmen:

Why Is Everything ‘Adjacent’ Now?

What, exactly, are all these things next to?

By Jonah Engel Bromwich

Isn’t this already just adorable? If Maddox were more healthy and hirsute, and a vampire of Nosferatu’s mold, he’d perfectly resemble this clown.

As we find ourselves stuck hopelessly online, our lexicon grasps back toward the physical world. An example: The word “adjacent” has recently packed its suitcase and taken the short trip from the literal to the figurative.

Translation: numerous Anglophones under fifty are so lexically nescient (in this instance, of prefixes quasi- and semi-) that they’ve ineptly misused a word en masse.

It used to be that “adjacent” meant “next to,” as in buildings, or city blocks. These days, it is more likely to signify a more conceptual and vague relation, which the speaker or writer would rather not describe in depth.

Accurately, the extension of this word’s definition from a spatial to relational meaning only denotes its speaker’s susceptibility to trends and inability to adequately articulate.

The following nauseating, inane instances only demonstrate the subliteracy and ideological monotony of mainstream journalism:

On Christmas Day, the CNN commentator Chris Cillizza called Michelle Obama “probably the most popular politics-adjacent figure in the country.”

“Quasi-political” would be too revealing, too sincere in its rightful relegation of the former first lady and her many moronic, uninformed tirades, wouldn’t it? Just as oblivious, neoconservative boomers are the only people who can stomach the Bushes, Obama and his brood are admired exclusively by leftist cretins. I can concede that fewer people likely loathe Michelle Obama than George W. Bush, only because she’s not a criminal bellicist. Anyhow, this merely exposes how cheaply euphemistic this bilge can be.

A few months before that, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said that Megyn Kelly’s remarks on the use of blackface in Halloween costumes were “not quite racist, but racist-adjacent” and also hate crime-adjacent.

I can’t relate to anyone who’d squander a minute of his retirement sequent to a great career whining about some fatuous, faithless, televised twat, but Abdul-Jabbar would’ve sounded less dumb (though no more cogent to anyone with a functioning brain) if he’d denounced her comments as “semi-racist” or “implicitly racist.”

Some months later, Max Newfield, a writer for Heartland Weekend, a Missouri publication, took readers on a tour of “wellness-adjacent” beers available for purchase from Southern breweries. (Because beer isn’t actually good for you, no matter its adjacencies!)

Who the shit can even fathom that gibberish?

“We almost might need to write a new subsense for this,” said Peter Sokolowski, the editor at large of Merriam-Webster, of the flock of “-adjacents.”

Anyone who essays to reconcile erudite and exoteric objectives or prioritize popularity in the field of lexicography is either a pseudo-intellectual or a brazen fraud. In the two articles featured in this post, Sokolowski exhaustively confirms that he’s both.

(Subsense is dictionary-world jargon for a secondary meaning of a word.)

Those of us who actually read know that subsense is a hyponymous or otherwise subordinate division of a more general definition. We also don’t type sophomoric terms like, “dictionary-world jargon.”

The usage, he said, was “so new it’s not in the damn dictionary.”

It shouldn’t be listed in any dictionary. Of all the horrid English dictionaries in print, Merriam-Webster is the most notorious for their inclusion of any popular slang to shift a few units or attract people to their ugly, bloated website. New American Heritage is more politically correct, and poorly written besides, but Merriam-Webster has become in the past forty years the trendiest reference book available. It’s a dictionary for dopey teenagers and bottom-feeders of contemporary pop culture.

“Adjacent,” in this usage, is a postpositive adjective. That just means that it comes after the noun it modifies. This is unusual in English, but standard in French and Latin syntax.

Contributors employed by the NYT are now obliged to clumsily define postposition for the uneducated simpletons that constitute their dwindling readership. Does anyone remember when this outlet’s output was characterized by a modicum of learned assumption? I don’t, but I was born in the late ’70s.

Because the conventions of those languages can often read as fancy in English, calling something “cannabis-adjacent” or “cosmetics-adjacent” grants a nifty sheen.

Ergo, millennials striving for a veneer of sophistication once again betray their stupefying idiocy and ignorance. I’m shocked.

“Like the technical vocabulary of law and medicine, the Latin nature of this word brings the discourse up a notch,” Mr. Sokolowski said. “It makes it seem more formal and technical.”

Patently vacuous pretensions don’t elevate language or discourse, but upon observing a commercial opportunity to exploit, Sokolowski needs to palaver and pander to rubes in one of the most amenably gullible demographics.

Such shifts in meaning irk purists like Lionel Shriver, a writer who recently decried in Harper’s what she called “semantic drift.” In an interview, Ms. Shriver described her reaction to the use of “-adjacent” and “space,” another term she said was increasingly being used in a figurative sense.

How is Shriver a “purist” for opposing semantic drift of such a witless stamp? What purity is she attempting to preserve in our language’s rich and irreparable farrago?

“The weird thing is that it’s imposing geography on what could not be more abstract,” she said. “It’s almost like a need for geography in the digital world, where everything’s floating around. We’re living increasingly in a world beyond space, beyond physicality.”

This is a valid analysis, but Shriver’s perhaps abstracting too much of what may be imputed to simple stupidity, pliancy and inscience.

(Incidentally, Shriver’s novel We Need To Talk About Kevin and Lynne Ramsay’s eponymous filmic adaptation thereof are fine fiction on the disastrous repercussions of parental dereliction.)

Ben Zimmer, a lexicographer, said that he began to notice the usage more and more about five years ago. He thought it may have originated with “real-estate talk, where, say, ‘Beverly Hills-adjacent’ indicates that a property isn’t actually in Beverly Hills, but close enough.”

At least this is casually condonable, neither too silly nor inapplicable, but…

Others see the word as useful in Silicon Valley, where start-up founders can’t quite be sure what it is their companies are making, even as they’re selling it to investors. It’s best to keep options open in case the need to pivot suddenly arises. The chat application Slack, for instance, was once TinySpeck, a gaming start-up with a particularly sophisticated chat feature; it was chat-adjacent. It left the gaming space, entered the chat space and became a billion-dollar company.

Ah, more “spaces.” These are the successors of people who daily uttered neologistic, corporate portmanteaux without a trace of irony for decades.

Erik Torenberg, a founder of the early stage venture capital fund Village Global, said that he sees technology entrepreneurs use the word as if they are preparing for a similar pivot (to use their favored jargon for “change in strategy”).

Big tech is the new Hollywood: a sector as flush with lucre and avaritia as it’s bankrupt of intellect.

“When people are trying to pursue one path, that path doesn’t necessarily work so they go into an adjacent space, a space next to that path,” he said.

Christ, but the millennial’s impoverished parlance is revolting! Every phenomenon is “a thing,” every locus (be it physical or figurative) “a space.” This is a corollary of three consecutive generations composed primarily of “book virgins.”

(Mr. Torenberg said that, when it came to the frequency of the phrase’s usage, it was a seven or an eight on a scale of 10. A 10 out of 10, he said, was the term “doubleclick,” which investors use as handy shorthand for “let’s go deeper or zoom in on this topic!”)

If anyone actually verbalizes that in my presence, I’ll need to decamp.

Ms. Shriver said that “-adjacent” was probably useful in a climate where businesses were “started up in the spirit of going fishing.”

If anything, its utterance is a valuable sign by which an interlocutor’s intelligence and superficiality may be assessed.

“It’s something between angling and gambling,” she said. “Rather than setting out with a specific intention to produce a product and sell that product, it’s capitalizing on vagueness.”

I concur: sleazy marketing can’t be compassed without at least a heaping dose of ambiguity.

This post probably wouldn’t be indited if I hadn’t — by complete coincidence — chanced upon another that’s far more aggravating earlier today:

Missouri woman says she contacted Merriam-Webster to change dictionary definition of racism

By Louis Casiano | Fox News

An email from a Missouri woman has prompted Merriam-Webster to update its definition of “racism” to include the systemic aspects that have contributed to discrimination, according to a report.

Who needs standards when crumbling institutions have brainless laymen to counsel them by petition?

Kennedy Mitchum, 22, of Florissant, told KMOV-TV that she was inspired to email the dictionary publisher after getting into arguments with others about the definition.

Naturally, because she’s as overtly incorrect as brainwashed.

Merriam-Webster defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

If one were to replace, “produce an inherent superiority” with “define the comparative nature,” that definition would be correct. Not only are races (and ethnic groups thereof) distinguished by thousands of physiological differences, but all of them are in some way inferior and superior to others by virtue of their respective deficiencies and aptitudes. No other datum is so heterodox to our rotten, ruling elites, and few are so evident — hence their attempts to muddle by redefinition racism with racial supremacy, which is as banefully immoral as racism is honest.

Mitchum, a recent graduate of Drake University, felt the definition was too simple and too surface-level, according to the news station.

When aren’t collegians ruled by their irrational emotions, especially when they can’t prevail in debate?

“So, a couple [sic] weeks ago, I said this is the last argument I’m going to have about this,” she said. “I know what racism is, I’ve experienced it time and time and time again in a lot of different ways, so enough is enough. So, I emailed them about how I felt about it. Saying this needs to change.”

In clown town, acceptation must suit the disingenuous needs of some imbecile who stultifies herself in her little squabbles. Okay, hon.

“I basically told them they need to include that there is systematic oppression on people. It’s not just ‘I don’t like someone,’ it’s a system of oppression for a certain group of people,” she added.

Yeah: systematic oppression in academia and the dating market is suffered by overachieving east Asian males. That’s it. This woman will never know what oppression is unless I ascend to predominance as a powerful warlord governing the monocracy of Buchanistan. Under the heel of my dictatorship, she’d probably come to love my tyranny, if only because she’d be subjected to actual human nature.

The change comes as the United States is grappling with nationwide protests over racial discrimination following the death of George Floyd.

Whereas the original definition of racism is a person’s individual belief in the superiority of one race over another,

As explicated above, that’s a lie.

the second definition will be expanded to include the types of bias that have contributed to racial discrimination, said Peter Sokolowski, the editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster, in a statement to Fox News.

Imagine my surprise, to find this diddling peddler of substandard scrivening the following afternoon, preaching to the progressive cult’s choir.

(Of course, he’s one of these. Genuine progressives who are either attractive or intelligent are as rare as four-leaf novels.)

“Our second definition is divided to express, first, explicit institutional bias against people because of their race, and, second, a broader implicit bias that can also result in an asymmetrical power structure,” he said.

Even if he was referring to the actual systemic bias in government, academia and legacy media that promotes corporate feminists and a few largely dupable ethnic minorities, and sustains our plutarchy at the expense of everyone else, rather than Bonald Blumph’s imaginary AmeriKKKan white supremacist patriarchy, the equational leftist argument that power+privilege=racism is still wishful fantasy.

“This second definition covers the sense that Ms. Mitchum was seeking, and we will make that even more clear in our next release,” he added. “This is the kind of continuous revision that is part of the work of keeping the dictionary up to date, based on rigorous criteria and research we employ in order to describe the language as it is actually used.”

Your sales have been in the toilet for years, so you may as well keep flushing.

Look, I’m fully aware that this is probably just a publicity stunt. Who knows whether this purported email ever existed, or whether this querulent is a paid shill? However, this article does prompt certain questions. Does “rigorous research” involve the receipt of dumb emails from jaundiced, mentally challenged women as valid recommendations? Which “rigorous criteria” prescribe political trends as viable influences on a resource that’s supposed to be definitive and impartial?

Stick to Random House’s publications, which are far superior and largely dispassionate, faults notwithstanding.