Words have no meaning.

Take these, for example.

By reading them you’ve gained nothing.

You want value from words. You want to be enriched. You don’t want people wasting your time. If this goes on for one more paragraph, you will stop reading.

Woman with balloons

This blows.

There are words I’ve heard my whole life that have no meaning for me. They don’t resonate. They just irk.

I don’t know what they mean and don’t intend to find out. Hearing them makes me feel unerudite, which may or may not be a word and I won’t check because I don’t feel like it. These meaningless works give me inferior feelings compared with those who say them to me.

The one that vexes me most often is "vis a vis." Perturbed by its sound, spelling and ostentatiousness, I refuse to look up what vis a vis means. It may be something benign and simple, but it may also be something important and full of richness. Probably it’s pretty meaningless.

Finding out isn’t in me.

Vis a vis sounds sort of French or Italian; definitely it’s not Russian or Portuguese. Few non-English words get used as often as vis a vis in English conversation. Often high-browed English professionals say this along with some pretentious business professionals climbing the social ladder. There are many others.

The only French word I can think of that is easy to remember, besides of course la bibliotheque (means library), is déjà vu. Understanding romance, I know the meaning of that one so it doesn’t bother me the way vis a vis does. A beautiful maroon-haired woman taught me French for three years in high school so I studied the language in order to impress her.

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When someone says vis a vis, my first thought is they’re trying to sound smart. This violates my belief that in speaking and writing it’s more essential to be clear than to sound smart.

Being lucid requires more careful critical thinking than confusing people with French or Italian phrases that most people have to stop to think of what you mean, and often don’t know. Use that word and they are bound to think you’re a jerk or pretentious or both for making them feel less erudite than you.

Maybe vis a vis is Latin. Never took Latin. For that we should all be grateful and less agitated. Writers don’t need to know the ancient roots of words. Dictionary.com covers that.

Whatever vis a vis means I doth not care nor shalt thou. I’ll never use it in my writing or speaking unless intending to be obtuse, which is borderline repellant. And the next time I hear someone say vis a vis in my presence I will imagine a rainy night in a dark tunnel where I want that person to go for a while.

Maybe vis a vis should be italicized for being a foreign word. But it won’t happen here. This is about spite and retribution sprinkled with paranoia and insecurity.

Another word that lacks meaning is incredulity. So many people have used this in my presence over the years that I have had to look it up to rise to the lofty heights I have professionally and socially. Incredulity means something like disbelieving or doubting. But anyone who uses it sounds so pompous and eager to sound intelligent that it makes me think of how life was better in third grade before people used big words.

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Back then none of us knew big words nor cared about them. Things were more settled and lunch time less hectic. The word "thing" was cool to say. Deciding we needed to be more precise in our use of language, adults struck it from writing and speaking.

Things changed and got harder.

When someone uses the word incredulity, I am forced—by them—to think for a few seconds before I can understand what they meant. Dissection doesn’t spawn anything except frustration. Their point remains fuzzy even if I look it up and saw the person’s whole sentence on a piece of paper. They say something like "His incredulity is making me incredulous about him."

This is either a double entendre—another pretentious word for which I do know the meaning (ha ha)—or word play, lazy writing, or obfuscation.

This nettlesome situation makes me incredulous about anyone who says "incredulity"—more than their use of the word. I don’t credule them.

The third word that doesn’t mean anything—and comes up too often—is phantasmagoria. At least twice a day someone says this six-syllable word to me.

Whatever phantasmagoria is, or wherever it is, or whenever it is, I don’t want to find out vis a vis anyone.

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