Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Exacerbating Exasperation

While reading today I came upon the word exacerbate. It's been a while since an author told me a situation had been exacerbated. That seems strange, because even the most cockeyed optimist would have to admit there is a whole lot of exacerbating going on. There might be a situation out there that is not being aggravated or increasing in severity, bitterness or violence, or just plain getting worse, but I don't know what it is. Still, no one, or hardly anyone, says our current problems are being exacerbated. Present day pundits, like those who preceded them, are sure that every problem is getting bigger by the hour and is well on its way to becoming unsolvable. Depending on his or her point of view, the problem is the incompetents in the White House, or the idiots in Congress; the one percent with the wealth, or the ninety-nine percent without it; the greedy unions, or the money-grubbing capitalists; the armed-to-the-teeth NRA, or the soft-on-crime ACLU; the educational system that doesn't educate, or the effete, ivory-tower intellectuals who are educated; the decaying industrial base that can't compete, or the rascally Chinese who have rigged the rules.

But as all our problems get bigger, it is a rare pundit who opines, "the crisis is being exacerbated by..." It wasn't always this way. In the 1980s and 90s, commentators constantly told us that the crisis du jour was being exacerbated. Now, hardly ever. And, as it turns out, the book I was reading had a 1998 copyright.

Like the moon, the popularity of a word waxes and wanes, and right now iconic is waxing more than S.C. Johnson. Anything that has been around a week-and-a-half is iconic. There are iconic TV shows, iconic movies, iconic stars, iconic personalities, iconic sports heroes, iconic buildings, iconic automobiles, iconic places, iconic candies, iconic fashions and, presumably, iconic icons. The increasing use of icon has nothing to do with something found in a Russian Orthodox Church and everything to do with those things found on your computer's desktop. If the high-tech types had called the pictograms pictograms there might not be any iconic people, places or things.

But trite or not, it would quite an ego boost to be called iconic. Too bad by the time someone refers to me as iconic, all our difficulties will be exacerbating again, iconic will be listed as archaic and, alas and alack, so will I.

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