Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Random Thoughts

According to my 10 year-old daughter, the word "random" has these days taken on the meaning of "strange, odd" e.g "What's that random music you're playing, Dad?"
As a recovering Mathematician, this grates on my nerves even more than my other pet hates, which are (for the record) :-
(a) The construction " ... so not ...."
          e.g "You're so not funny",
               "We're so not going there" 
(b) Applying the superlative to binary adjectives
         e.g  "A very unique opportunity" (it's either unique or not) 
                "Extremely pregnant" (you're either pregnant or not)
or even     "A very random set of values" (they are either random or not)

The idea of randomness is a subtle and profound one that deserves its own word. There are already so many good words that convey strangeness or oddness without overloading this one with an extra meaning. Alternatives include my all-time favourite word, "eldritch", which doesn't get used nearly enough in these strange days. It literally means "from the kingdom of the elves".
I understand I am powerless to prevent change to the language, and in fact the comical way my face goes red and the vein in my forehead throbs when my daughter uses the term may even be encouraging her to use it more.

Interesting Question courtesy of Mrs. Stan : Is the phrase "random pattern" an oxymoron ?


Kenny said...

Eldritch as in the Sisters of Mercy? Class.

Stan said...

Think that Eldritch took his name from "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" by Philip K Dick. Can't prove it - maybe he just liked the word too.

Stan said...

Oh yes, and I forgot my third big hate - the random use of the word "literally". As in "the goalkeeper literally handed it to him on a plate". I think I'd even prefer the dreaded use of the word "so" here e.g "The goalkeeper so handed it to him on a plate."