Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Esteemed Critic on Nerd Words, Bulletstorm

This is how I feel every time I encounter incorrect usage of the word factoid.

I would like to preface this column with a disclaimer: I am not a grammar snob. I believe that language is a living, breathing organism that is constantly being remade by people rather than stuffy professors clinging to outdated notions of their own relevancy. That being said, there are a few words that I can't help cringing every time I see them typed by some clueless denizen of the internet (of which, there are legion). Let's start things off with a frequent offender: the word "grok."

According to Dictionary.com, "grok" is a word coined by renowned science fiction author Robert Heinlein in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land. It means "to understand empathically," and it apparently came into use in the 1960's and is now obsolete except in "internet technology circles." I see this word pop up all the time on forums as a replacement for "understand" or "comprehend," and I assure you all, I do not spend time on the net in "internet technology circles." This is a terrible word, folks; it sounds like the name of a thirteen-year-old's gruff sci-fi protagonist, or perhaps an alien word for excrement. There is no reason to use grok in common conversation, for most people will not know what you're talking about, and those that do will think you an imbecile for trying to use a fake word to bolster perceptions of your intelligence. Unless we want to start stealing words from Klingon, I suggest that we leave science fiction alone as a source for neologism. There, I used a legitimate big word. Huzzah for me.
 
My second offender is the word "cromulent." Blogger apparently agrees with me, for it has this word underlined in red. Dictionary.com defines cromulent as slang, and identifies its origin as a Simpsons episode, where it is uttered by the schoolteacher Miss Hoover, "in which she defended one made up word by making up another." "Cromulent" means "fine, acceptable," and here I must wonder why either of those words needed a replacement. I suspect the same impulse that prompts someone to use grok also encourages the use of cromulent. Don't give in to that feeling, people. It makes you sound stupid.

"Factoid" appears often, though it is always used incorrectly. It was coined by respected author and renowned asshole Norman Mailer to mean "unreliable information believed to be true because of the way it is repeated by the media." (Dictionary.com once again) Every time I encounter this word, however, it is never in that sense; factoid is used interchangeably with "fact," which is illogical. Is there such a thing as a little fact? Are certain facts larger or smaller than one another? People, the only rule I ask that you abide by is to try not to sound like a pompous ass by using words incorrectly. I have a monopoly on pompousness, and I will jealously defend my privileges from would-be usurpers. 


Let's leave the grammar discussion now and dive into the realm of the proletariat, where electronic entertainment is in high demand. Bulletstorm is a first person shooter set in an apocalyptic resort world full of mutants and giant monsters. You play the part of a gruff ex-military He-man bent on revenge and redemption. As terrible as this sounds, it is all played with tongue firmly in cheek; characters bust out awful Schwarzenegger one-liners, and the protagonist is frequently called out for his stupidity. Gameplay centers on a skillshots system in which the player is rewarded for pulling off difficult shots with various weapons. Bulletstorm is beautiful as well, especially considering that it came out in 2011. Should be a cheap find in the bargain bin. Recommend for those who wish to vicariously slaughter millions of barbarians in gruesome and often humorous ways. Buy it, you degenerates.

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