No, that is not a Frank Sinatra song used as the theme for a popular sitcom.
I have been thinking about this for quite a while now. There are words whose definitions we exaggerate to the point of hyperbole in an effort to convey strong feelings. E.g.:
“I love this new book.”
“Watching that movie was torture.”
I’m calling time-out to consider whether these are appropriate uses.
Like many in the first world, I have a favorite restaurant, and I have been known to say, “I love their pizza.” But do I really? Are my feelings about a pizza so strong as to rise to the level of love, the grandest emotion we can experience, that state wherein we are fulfilled and completed by another, and part of that joy is that we fulfill and complete another? Can and do I truly equate my enjoyment of a pizza to the love I have for certain living beings?
Apparently so. And I increasingly consider that a desperately shallow attitude. I see it as a grotesque debasement of all that love encompasses. I like the pizza. I enjoy eating the pizza. It is the best pizza I know of. Love it? No.
Similarly, we sling the word torture around pretty freely to describe any mildly unpleasant experience. This mocks those who have suffered real torture – those who have been face to face with someone whose only intent was to cause extreme physical and mental anguish. We know what the Nazis did to their victims in the death camps. We know what the Americans did to their victims at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. You cannot conflate the search for a new insurance provider with the horrors inflicted on human flesh.
Language changes to accommodate our needs, but I intend to hold the line with these words as long as I can. Let us use lesser words for lesser emotions and experiences.
These linguistic sins are, I trust, more often committed in casual conversation than in serious writing. I am trying to curtail my slovenly use of these two, but I may commit other, similar sins without realizing it. I would be interested in your list of abused words. (Perhaps abused is one of them.)