Journey to the center of the buzzwords

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Journey to the center of the buzzwords

One of the things that personal growth gurus will tell you is that you probably tell people more than they need to hear. If you’re invited to something, and you can’t make it, or just don’t want to go, just say, “Sorry, I can’t make it,” without adding any other explanation. If someone asks you where you want to go for dinner, just say, “How about Thai?” without adding, “It feels like we do Italian a lot, and I’d like to give pasta a rest, and you probably should, too.”

I make this mistake a lot. For instance, I had a meeting last week that I needed to reschedule. “Can we move our meeting to Thursday?” I texted. “On Wednesday I have a committee meeting at my church that I totally forgot about.”

KEEPING EACH OTHER SANE

The minute I hit “send,” I knew I had made a mistake. The person I was texting is a notorious busybody and never misses an opportunity to turn a simple text exchange into a six-act play. The three dots immediately appeared below my message in the iMessage app, so I knew I was in for it.

After a few moments, the block of text appeared: “No prob. Thursday is good. What’s the committee? Didn’t know you went to church. Which one? Guessing the one just up from Washington Square Park, near your place? Or another one? Interesting that you’re a churchgoer, would not have guessed that. Is it something new or were you raised that way? Would love to hear more about your faith journey.”

I take full responsibility for opening up the subject of churchgoing with my too-specific initial text message. The person I was communicating with is, as I’ve mentioned, a well-meaning but irritating person, and I should have known better. On the other hand, there’s no excuse — there’s never an excuse — for using the phrase “faith journey.” I can’t be blamed for that.

“Faith” is a perfectly acceptable word, of course. It’s the word “journey” that’s the problem. It’s a word that used to apply to Victorian-era travelogues and National Geographic specials, but for the past few years, it’s been popping up everywhere. Somehow, it’s crept into the most anodyne and humdrum situations.

“I’ll give you some time,” a waiter once said to our table, “to journey through our menu, but in the meantime, can I get anyone a drink?” We were flipping through the apps and mains, not heading to Santiago de Compostela.

The senior vice president of network television finance once started a budget meeting with me by saying, “I just want to say, before we start talking about the budget, how excited I am to be going on this journey with you.” We were making a television pilot together, not traveling up the Orinoco to find the long-missing explorer Col. Lytton-Hervey.

“Thank you for being patient during this journey,” someone at Spectrum Cable told me after I spent 30 minutes on hold trying to change the auto-billing details on my account. It wasn’t a journey. It was me listening to awful music while wondering when I was going to be abruptly disconnected.

In none of those instances was the word “journey” appropriate. Instead of “journey,” what the cable company customer service meant was “ordeal.” Come to think of it, that’s what the studio senior vice president meant, too. And the waiter was just giving us some time to finish our wine, exorbitantly priced by the glass, and order another as we read the menu.

“Journey” has joined the list of words that have become unaccountably fashionable, like “curate” and “inclusion” and “sustainable.” They’re dress-up words, employed to make simpler concepts a bit more arty and creative-sounding. My friend wanted to hear more about my “faith journey” because asking someone direct questions about their religion is seen as confrontational and a little bit rude.

If forced to choose, I prefer things that are nonconfrontational and rude, which is why I ignored the barrage of questions and waved away further inquiries. I also reminded myself that the gurus are right: Never say more than you have to. Although I know I’ll mess up again. But that, as they say, is my journey.

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Rob Long is a television writer and producer, including as a screenwriter and executive producer on Cheers, and he is the co-founder of Ricochet.com.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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