E x c i t e d

How many times in your life have you been excited? I mean really excited? Perhaps you cannot remember. But you will certainly remember some occasions when your nerves tingled and the hair on the back of your neck rose involuntarily. A sensation combined of anticipation and fear gripped you. My son Tim throws himself remorselessly out of aircraft. He gets a real frisson from it. It excites him. I cannot imagine anything I want to do less. Everyone is excited by something.

I regard words as precious as a Wedgewood teacup, as enchanting as a Rembrandt painting and as important as a judgment in a capital trial. They are our tools of thought and I have always been schooled to look after tools and use them kindly. So the reckless and cruel use of words is abhorrent to me. Jargon is now as widespread as plastic in the oceans and nearly as damaging.

Mostly we recognise the worst of the meaningless chatter that passes for wisdom or authority. Increasingly we seem to fail to see the simplest of word sins, a misuse of expressions that denote sensation and feeling. ‘Love’ and ‘hate’ are both regularly expressed in inappropriate contexts. A more recent visitor to the scene of word crime is ‘excited’. I now get invitations almost daily that start with “We are excited…” You may be, Sir / Madam; telling me will not induce a thrill in me.

Have you ever watched a ferret exciting a rabbit. It is a true example of the use of the word. The ferret, clever little devil as he is, wants to kill the rabbit but knows that a lunge at the furry ball will not succeed. Rabbits may not be brilliant but they are fast. So the ferret does a little dance, weaving to and fro in front of the victim. The rabbit is mesmerised. As the ferret retreats backwards into a trap, dinner follows, excited by the performance, seduced by the ferret’s choreography.

Loose use of words like ‘excited’, or the excessive use of the filler word ‘like’, leave us numbed to good language, bereft of words to express feelings when they are real and low in authoritative stature. They demean our precious means of engagement. They must be outlawed by each of us.

Perhaps the most recent absurdity sent to me will make the point. It was announcing the launch of yet another app to add to our crowded phones.

“We were very excited on Friday of last week…”, it said. I got it on a Tuesday.

Oh, dear. That excitement didn’t last long, did it?