Redeeming Passion

We all love to hate vapid, misused, and overused words or phrases. “Moving forward”, “at the end of the day” and “in the final analysis” are three of my faves.
Every New Year’s Eve since 1975, Lake Superior State University has released a list of such linguistic losers. The List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness, a grandiose title frequently shortened to the Banished Words List, has gained visibility thanks to social media, particularly since many of these done-to-death terms are so deliciously tweetable.
In 2013, “fiscal cliff”, “YOLO”, and “boneless wings” made the cut. “Boneless wings”? Must be a U.S. thing or I need to get out more. Or not. Moving forward.
“Passion” and, probably in the name of thoroughness, accuracy and fairness, “passionate” also made the list. And that’s too bad.

True, both “passion” and “passionate” have been done to death of late. Everyone is passionate about everything from life-threatening disease to a fab app that cleans your cat’s litter box. “I am passionate about” has been used as a synonym to express a full range of emotional reactions, from “I reservedly endorse” to “I am weirdly obsessed by”. And, true, if everything is worthy of passion – then nothing is notably worthy of “passion” (apologies to Baudrillard).
But, please, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Aside from the word’s religious meaning (often signalled by a capital “P”), Merriam-Webster defines “passion” as an “intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction”. Passion is driven by our most basic emotions: love, joy, hatred, or anger. To be “passionate” is to have the capacity to experience passion.
On the upside, banning “passion” and “passionate” might trigger a stimulating search for synonyms, an activity I heartily endorse. “Ardour” and “ardent” work, but slipping them into casual conversation might prove arduous.
On the downside? Banning the “p” words may cast a shadow of doubt and suspicion over authentic displays of “passion” and call into question the sincerity of truly “passionate” people.
Finally, why pick on “passion” and “passionate” at all when there are so many other words that merit obsolescence? For example, here are some words and terms that I ardently hope disappear for lack of relevance:
¨       bullying
¨       infant mortality
¨       gang rape
¨       gun-related violence (and the too-oft-related “school shooting”)
¨       global warming
¨       desertification
¨       intolerance
¨       crass indifference
¨       jaded
Sadly, it will take more than a light-hearted annual event to erase my picks from the daily lexicon.
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  1. I’ll just be happy when food is safe again and everyone isn’t either an “urban farmer” or a “homesteader.” Veggies are o.k., but I kinda miss front yards full of flowers.

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