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Columnist launches a massive missive

December 14, 2010

This post is about a column from way out east in Ontario. Now stiffle your boos. It’s actually pretty good. Taylor ‘Hap’ Parnaby (yes, his nickname is actually listed as Hap on the website) of the Caledon Enterprise writes about the misuse of the word “massive” (hence the clever headline for this post).

I wince when television reporters use the word to describe a lengthy everyday traffic jam, an approaching everyday cold front or almost anything else editors figure needs a “kaboomish” word to make us pay attention.

more…

…. [I]n virtually every case, you are left with a single question, which is essential to the appropriate use of the word. If something is massive you need figure out what it’s being compared to.

The word has a series of precise meanings but few seem to fit its modern day usage. I mean, in this country, what’s a massive winter storm? The snow streamers that paralyzed London last week were not unique. Near as I can tell, it was a nasty storm with windswept snow forcing people and their machines off the roads for a day or two but which, by comparison with others in the past, was not even a rare winter storm. No one needed to call in the army for assistance, which has been required in the past. Yes, those snowstorms were described as massive too.

I agree with Parnaby (I think) but I’m not about to throw stones in glass houses. So I decided to look back over my the past year and see how often I used the word in my own stories. It turns out that I use the word, on average, about once a month. Not that bad, but not that good either, especially given the fact that not much happens in my neck of the woods that can appropriately be described as “massive.”

Nevertheless, I’ve used the word to describe solid things like:

  • a ramp
  • a waterpark
  • a trail system
  • a fire (twice, both in regards to the same incident)

Along with more abstract concepts, including:

  • a hole (left by the death of a loved one)
  • tragedy in general
  • the online revolution

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve labelled as “massive”? Leave a comment, dammit.

Photo by Stan Wiechers via Flickr
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  1. December 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I don’t think it counts as weird, but a quick search turns up massive:
    – spike in fecal coliform (Mmmm)
    – festival
    – project
    – decline.

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