Not to get all Andy Rooney but...

...the following two things that people say or write have really been getting on my tits lately:

1) "Utilize." On the subway last night the announcer guy was like, "This is Dupont Circle. Please utilize all doors." I think people like train announcers, football coaches, and national-security bureaucrats like this word because it sounds sort of impressively technical, but it actually means nothing more than "use." So why not just say "use"? This over-technical quality is, I think, uniquely American, and is related to the creation of the verb "de-plane," which just means to get off the airplane.

2) "Moms". In my exchange with Melinda Henneberger on the midterms blog (can't link coz she took it down!), she wrote: "Ask any 100 moms..." This is increasingly common, and it's literally infantilizing. "Mom" is what you call your own mother. When referring to mothers as a group, why not call them "mothers"? Maybe part of this is that "mother" got corrupted by it's being part of "motherfucker" (or even the abbreviated "mutha", meaning the same as "motherfucker," as commonly used by RothBrothers' own mutual and beloved grandfather), so now it can't help but carry the taint of that meaning. But I think there's something else going on too, which is that the "moms" usage is being driven by advertizing, both commercial and political (eg: the Million Mom March), which, for obvious reasons, is being written to produce in the viewer or reader a kind of empathy. So you can see how a company selling baby food or whatever might want to use the more accessible "moms" instead of "mothers," as a way of connecting with the side of women that they're trying to engage with. But for ordinary non-commerical writing, empathy isn't usually the point. And "moms" just sounds cloying and childish (like when adults say "poop", which I find 1000 times more obscene than the straightforward word "shit"). I feel like Oprah and the 90s bear some measure of responsibility here.