There is a very important question being tackled again by certain smart people of the Internet, and that question is this: What, exactly, is the worst word on the entire planet? Any time this question or one like it is broached, an opened floodgate of response is ensured, likely to include words like moist, fecund, phlegm, artisanal, or if you work at TheNew Yorker,slacks. We continue to believe that coöperationis öffensive, as is the corresponding word, diaeresis, which remains ever so hard to spell no matter how many times we type it.
On Thursday Sarah Miller made a strong argument on The Awl for literally as our English-speaking community’s worst word. This is not a bad word to choose as the very worst. Flagrant misuses abound, and it’s ever so annoying when people say literally when they actually mean not literally. Literally, in fact, is rarely used when it should be used, which is almost never, and almost always when it shouldn’t. […]
Literally is a word that we should be very, very careful around. But actually I think there’s a word that’s worse.Actually, did you see what I did there? While literally and actually can be used interchangeably, actually has a bad attitude. Literallycan be mocked and laughed at, because literally almost no one uses it correctly. Actually is more sneaky, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Actually is the word that you use when you’re actually saying, “You are wrong, and I am right, and you are at least a little bit of an idiot.”
“Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing. When data of any sort are placed in storage, they are filed alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by tracing it down from subclass to subclass. It can be in only one place, unless duplicates are used; one has to have rules as to which path will locate it, and the rules are cumbersome. Having found one item, moreover, one has to emerge from the system and re-enter on a new path.
The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature.
Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it. In minor ways he may even improve, for his record have relative permanency. The first idea, however, to be drawn from the analogy concerns selection. Selection by association, rather than by indexing, may yet be mechanized. One cannot hope thus to equal the speed and flexibility with which the mind follows an associative trail, but it should be possible to beat the mind decisively in regard to the permanence and clarity of the items resurrected from storage.”
where was this article when I was writing that paper?