The use of the word “thing” to convey lofty concepts was recently described in a witty essay written by a colleague in the PVE Writers’ Workshop. After having one’s consciousness raised over “a guy thing” and “the sub-prime thing” and “the race thing,” it’s almost inevitable to start considering other words that have come into prominence.
“Thing” has a manly, strong and comforting ring to it. It’s reassuring to embrace the concept that there is a firm, positive set of standards that can be compressed in one word- “thing.” But, add a suffix to that macho noun, and you have “thingie,” a simpering, wimpy connotation of limp and gelatinous quivering. “Honey, where’s the thingie that keeps the wine drinkable?” “Those boots have the cutest thingie around the ankle,” or “I tried and tried to make that thingie on my computer work, but…..”
No self-respecting guy of robust proportions would ever utter those sentences. Yet these are conversational items that one hears often in normal daily existence uttered almost exclusively by women. Think about it. We are reduced to gender-specific meanings with huge ramifications for interpretation simply by adding an incorrect suffix. The PVE Bocce players have even had a contest to name the “thingie” that rakes the court.
Let’s leave the thing/thingie sex roles and move onto another word that has found its way into every conceivable area of our language; the word “issue.”
“She has separation issues.” “He has a computer/printer issue” “I have appetite-suppression issues” and so on, ad nauseum. In earlier biblical definitions, the word “issue” referred to fluids spewing from bodily orifices, or to ones progeny. Then, the word developed other meanings, until the current definition in the American Heritage Dictionary contains no less than nine separate explanations for that one single word, none of which exactly confers the degree of meaning we confidently attribute to the sub-text.
So, before I am accused of having “semantic issues,” I suppose I had better figure out how to use the voice-recognition thingie on my computer before it becomes “that technology thing” that can only lead to disappointment and chaos.