Thursday, August 1, 2013


Over time words evolve, morph into something new, and sometimes die off for lack of use. Words are misused, abused and sometimes, sadly overused to the point of ad nauseum. Case in point: basically. Seldom does a day go by when I don’t hear it. It dominates all conversation. It’s on the news, on the weather channel, on talk shows. Whenever someone opens their mouth, there it is, and I can’t help but roll my eyes.
Last week on the radio, I listened to an expert discuss security programs for home computers. Every time the speaker described a new item he began by saying. “Basically, the… (Insert program name here).  Being compulsive, I started counting the number of times I heard the dreaded word. After six times within a few minutes, I switched off the radio. Ugh! I thought this guy was supposed to be an expert.
Imagine my surprise when basically emerged in all three books I read this week. Used in the character’s dialogue repeatedly, I imagined it was a purposeful word choice by the author meant to mimic the talk of real people. When it appeared in the narrative thought, I had to wonder just how far the word has seeped into our daily vocabulary
I get it that basically is used as a modifier. Yet I prefer statements to be more definite and precise. Most things aren’t basically this or that. Rather, most things are or aren’t. A towel hanging on the line isn’t basically dry. It’s either damp or dry. Take your pick.
Basically is used to summarize and cut out the clutter of a long, descriptive explanation. “Basically, (Insert, any noun) was a mess.” It’s a crutch word, used in place of or together with other word fillers such as um, uh, well. Throw in literally, seriously, like and all too.  “Like she was all…and he was all…and then, literally dude, she was all over him. It was like, basically crazy.”   
Basically is fashionable now, but does it have to be applied to every third sentence?  Used too often, it sounds stupid. The definition for basically: when you suspect someone of being an idiot, count how many times they say basically when talking.
I hate to be harsh and picky, but geez, choose another word. Maybe it’s the rebel in me. I don’t like following the trendy or doing what everybody else is doing. Or, maybe I’m just a word nerd. At my house, basically is banned.
Until next month, happy reading.

Joyce Proell is the Champagne Books author of Eliza and A Deadly Truth. A Burning Truth, the second book in the Cady Delafield series will be available, December, 2013.




Julie Eberhart Painter said...

True. One place this emerges is as a substitute for somethig you've leared not to say: the dreaded "to be' words.

What bugs me is the newscasters who latch on to big words and overuse them: exacerbate, trifecta, bellicose, as if they are now deemed intelligent.

Big Mike said...

My cringe word is "Fact of the matter is." The news outlets toss one in every five minutes. Its almost like saying, "I'm going to try and confuse you with BS so let me throw in a FOTMI line to dull your senses." There's a guy by the initials BB on Fox that leads ever other sentence with, "FOTMI." Grrrrr.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Or here's the thing!