Reality TV Is Ruining The English Language

Reality TV is omnipresent and it's infecting everyone with a treatable disease called stupidity.


Whether it be competition shows like The Biggest Loser and America’s Got Talent or brain-dead shows like the Real Housewives installments or the Kardashians shows; one thing we can likely agree upon is that reality TV is omnipresent and unavoidable. 

For TV purposes, ‘reality’ ostensibly means ‘scriptless.’ Sure there are money-shot moments that directors expect to get on tape and there may even be a loose narrative; like affluent women crying about…well, nothing really. But what ‘scriptless’ really means is that there’s nary a creative writer aboard the production team. There is no eloquently dreamt-up narrative, or heroically brilliant fictional characters.  

This void of an imaginative spirit is the very reason why reality TV is ruining the English language. No one is telling these humanoids what to say, when to say it, and most importantly…how to say it.  So now, what comes out of the oven is not a beautifully cooked loaf of artful intelligence; it’s unmistakable chunks of stupidity with remnants of idiotic fat content.

For the sake of example, I’m going to pick on the Kardashians – they won’t mind the attention. The family is popular for a whole lot of reasons; here’s none of them: depth-of-vocabulary assets, scientific eureka moments, or positively influencing mankind.  There are plenty of words and phrases that the girls abuse – which are mostly incorrect uses – but I chose to highlight a few that are most bothersome to me.  

Plus, they talk like robots, and that’s even more disappointing because all the robots I know have a wonderfully extensive vocabulary.

You’re probably wondering why I watch the show at all. Let me share a saying that I have: you must know what’s bad to know what’s good.  And, simply put: creativity is fueled by inspiration; inspiration to join, shift or change a movement oftentimes. I can’t help but take severe umbrage when hearing adults (admired and entitled nonetheless) struggle to formulate sentences that are taught in elementary school.

Ultimately, we should view the English language like we do technology – some things are just too archaic to remain present and effective. We have a vast ocean of expressive and descriptive words at our disposal. Charter a cerebral schooner – Webster would appreciate it.

Listed in order of annoyance – and dismissive of the fact that they use all these words in the same sentence.

1)     Literally 

Potential Kardashian usage: “I was literally balling my eyes out because somebody has the vanity license plate I wanted.”

This is the biggest offender to the English language. Way too many people use it as an attention-grabber when storytelling. You only need to specify you’re speaking ‘literally’ if your audience may possibly think of your comment in a figurative sense; not if your remark is clearly absurd and narcissistic drivel. However, it’d be cool to see their eyes pop out so they can watch their lives from our point of view.

2)     Honestly

Potential Kardashian usage: “I honestly think that outfit looks cute on you (even though it would look better on me).”

This word is – most times – being confused with “sincerely.” The two words aren’t fungible. Girls say “honestly” with the intent of being sincere to not sound as jealous as they sincerely appear.  Unless you’re a habitual and delusional liar, you needn’t preface 90% of your social confessions with this word.

3)     Seriously

Potential Kardashian usage: “We seriously need to just tan our worries away at the beach.”

Again, unless your audience may think you’re aspiring to be a comedian or that your reason for being famous is a cruel joke on the universe of creative souls, you needn’t specify the seriousness of such mundane monologues.

4)     Like

Potential Kardashian usage:  “God, that nudie-booty photo shoot made me so…like, tired.”

This is usually a word to bridge a comparison to something else, or to express an affinity for something affable, perhaps. Somewhere along the way it turned into a ‘pause’ word for people, not just girls.  But ponder this, when the hell did articulation become a television novelty?  This show isn’t “like, dumb.” It simply is “dumb.”

5)     So Excited

Potential Kardashian usage: “I’m so excited for the Kardashain Kollection to hit every Sears in Somalia.”

The word ‘so’ has become a prefix to many simplistic words to give emphasis and embellishment.  Here’s a list of words to use instead of the phrase above: elated, enthused, stoked, thrilled, pumped, looking forward.  Or, just find your own. Patronize your local thesaurus.

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joe simonton June 20, 2012 at 04:50 PM
anita loosen your hat pin up, I am sure Paxton was making a joke
AMA June 20, 2012 at 05:12 PM
JOE, thanks, I'm ok! I am not writing posts in a mean way. Just talking. Oh....BTW, hat pins are out. Lol
Debbie S. June 20, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Aw, Paxton: I neither said that nor implied it, but if *you* feel that way, you too can choose to turn off your television, so no worries! I just don't buy into the social fallacy that if you don't have or watch commercial television, you are somehow missing something - and my children don't believe it either. Jean: my girls have PLENTY to talk about on the playground. With the money we are saving on cable/dish service, we take them to live theatre shows and concerts plus do lots of traveling around the county. Those dollars add up and as someone else said, it's all about family choices.
Debbie S. June 20, 2012 at 05:49 PM
That argument's been made for hundreds of years whenever new technology transforms society. It was made against the printing press and newspapers and computers. It wasn't true then and it isn't true now!
Tom Tucker June 20, 2012 at 07:21 PM
So you're now comparing an actual journalist (Williams) to an entertainer (Rush)? Good grief.
Paul June 21, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Debbie, why? Your statement befuddles me because there is no explanation. Are language and constructive discussion techniques degrading at the same time?
William B Budner ESQ. June 21, 2012 at 09:17 PM
you're doing the lords work paxton, it has been recognized.
joe simonton June 21, 2012 at 09:21 PM
QUICK Debbie, complain that Paul is in violation of the TOS policy
Douglas June 21, 2012 at 11:09 PM
The English language, as with all languages, is an ever changing item. It never stays the same and it never should. If the language were to stagnate then so would our minds. Yes, sometimes people use terms or words that drive me nuts, but those items will probably not make it into common usage. I say probably because the one thing I truly despise is 'like' being used more than once in a single sentence. "Like, I was totally, like, blown away by that, like, band." (shudder)
Paul June 21, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Joe, stop making this personal. There is a huge gray area here that deserves to be intelligently explored. Give Debbie a chance to respond. Your post is taunting and borders on bullying. You can do better, right?
AMA June 21, 2012 at 11:27 PM
I totally agree with you. They are always adding new words to the language. That's the reason new dictionaries come out all the time. The English language is complex because of spelling and double meaning for the same word. Now in the electronic world, new words are endless.
Debbie S. June 22, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Paul - I have attended several education conferences in the past 12 months. One presentation I attended, presented by Anthony Luscre, Director of Technology in Mogodore, had a series of examples used to explain the idea I expressed above: * "Writing will be the death of thinking and debate." ~ Socrates (mid 400's BC) * In the 15th century, people thought that the printing press would be the death of writing. * "Abundance of books will be the death of scholarly writing." ~ Conrad Gessner (1550's) * At one point, people predicted that newspapers would be the death of social interaction. * Compulsory school would lead to the death of natural mental development of children. * The typewriter would bring the death of handwriting. * The radio would kill concentration, attention, & proper sleep. (1920's & 1930's) * Television threatened proper cognitive development in children (1950's & 1960's) There are MANY more examples here in Anthony's handouts: http://www.neotechconference.org/uploads/2012-handouts/C-1_OMG_I_CNT_BLIEV_IN_SKUL_/omg_i_cnt_bliev_we_r_really_gttng_2_do_ths_in_skul_NEOTech2012.pdf But the gist is this: every time a new technology comes out, there is a hue and cry about how it heralds the death of something else, but for the most part that does NOT hold true. English is and continues to be the dominant language of the world. Millions are and will continue to be proficient at it. Texting won't change this just like shorthand didn't change it!
AMA June 22, 2012 at 02:09 AM
What I fear, is the new generations to come will not learn cursive, because of the electronic age descending so quickly. How will one sign important documents, cards,writing letters? To me, there's nothing like paper and pencil and to write. I think it's appalling to omit that from school agendas. What will be the next elimination....school books, which is already happening. Kids can't think on their own, ie, calculators,PC's,etc. I believe in progress but not teach with the basic fundamentals is absurd! I have an iPad and computer, but when I want to read, I pick up a real BOOK.
Debbie S. June 22, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Anita, If kids can't think on their own, it is NOT the fault of the tools they are using! You can't use a calculator without knowing the math behind it because you wouldn't know what to enter on it! And frankly, I'd rather a kid pick up an iPad to read than to not read at all. To me, the medium is irrelevant and in many cases, the electronic media provides rich links right within the text that really enhance learning. Kids' spines and bodies are suffering from the excessive weight of all the textbooks they have to lug around, so I'd LOVE to see schools implement one device containing hyperlinked e-books for all their subjects (which will also be more up-to-date than physical textbooks could be). As for cursive, I actually wish schools would stop teaching it. You have no idea how much time is spent on cursive which could be better spent on more relevant topics. It takes a good 1.5 school years or more for kids to get it down. Teach them their signatures and how to read cursive and be done with it! Perhaps teach it as an art unit, but once I learned cursive I never used it and no one I know (except my mom) uses it, either. (I am 42 years old). Finally, even though it feels like this "electronic age" has come around quickly, I have been using computers for over 30 years, so these tools are not as new as you might think!
tom m June 22, 2012 at 02:35 AM
I have to agree with Debbie, cursive needs to follow the path of hieroglyphs. I like the idea of teaching it as an art form. And anita my 10 year old brought home 18 lbs of books one day (I weighed the book bag) to me loading all those books into a ipad would make more sense, and would in the long run cost the school much less in upkeep costs
Paul June 22, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Talk about TMI! I briefly glanced at your link, but didn't see anything that proves Tom Tucker wrong. While history does tend to repeat itself, there is no guarantee that Tom Tucker is wrong. He might be right. Only after the benefit of hindsight will we know.
Debbie S. June 22, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Tom Tucker expressed an opinion with little detail or back-up, so it's impossible to "prove" anything either way. His opinion is as valid as mine, though I disagree - yea for diverse thought! I'm sorry you thought my explanation was too lengthy. I took the time to type it out and provide a link because you asked me for a longer explanation and suggested that "language and constructive discussion techniques" were degrading, then told Joe that this area "deserved to be intelligently explored."
AMA June 22, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Are you saying you don't write...in cursive, you print? I guess I'm from another generation. I love to write,read a book,etc. I also am up with all electronic devices. I guess I have the best of both worlds. I agree to have kids read e-books compared to not at all. But I differ with you about cursive. Have a good evening, Debbie.
Debbie S. June 22, 2012 at 03:02 AM
I don't ever use cursive except to sign my name - I print everything! But personally I am totally low tech when it comes to books, which is funny because I am a total geek when it comes to everything else. But there is NOTHING like the feel and weight of a great book, especially at the pool in the summer! You have a good evening as well, Anita! (-:
AMA June 22, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Tom, that is a lot of weight for a kid. OY! I guess with all the shortages in funds and failed levies, subjects are being cut from the program. Maybe they should have it for an art class, but I don't agree. Have a good evening.
Debbie S. June 22, 2012 at 04:18 AM
I don't think it's a financial issue as much as an issue of time and quantity of knowledge. There's much more kids need to know now and there is much LESS that many parents are teaching. It's not just facts but knowing how to learn so kids can sustain the life-long learning now required. They need various literacies (traditional AND digital), higher level thinking & reasoning, and cultural awareness (of both ours and others'). It's critical that they know about world cultures, too, since technology and transportation have shrunk it for today's students. Cursive is just way down on the list of necessary skills, in my opinion.
Paul June 22, 2012 at 11:11 AM
Your explanation was fine. Your link (a whole presentation) was too lengthy. I'm glad that you agree that all the intellectual "conclusions" you brought up are still just basically opinions.
Kate Bigam June 24, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Look, not having a TV is obviously a way to avoid all television shows, but it should be obvious that the author meant that WHEN YOU TURN THE TV ON, it's almost impossible to avoid flipping through at least a few reality TV shows. He's not speaking about people who don't watch TV; he's speaking of an epidemic in current television programming, perhaps ONLY avoidable by "cutting the TV cord" entirely.
Kate Bigam June 24, 2012 at 04:54 PM
I was about to make the same comment. ;)
Kate Bigam June 24, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Paul, why ask for Debbie's thoughtful opinion if you're only going to bash her for giving it? I notice you didn't bash the actual opinion, just her presentation of it. Frankly, it's not Debbie's fault if you can't be bothered to read a whole paragraph.
Kate Bigam June 24, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Tom, is it exhausting to be so angry & rant-filled all the time? Geez.
John McMillan June 24, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Debbie, your logic (if it's true then, then it's true now) is flawed.
John McMillan June 24, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I will agree with that point...it's definitely entertainment by and for people with no original thoughts.
Paul June 26, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Kate, I was referring to the monstrously long PDF file linked to by Debbie. Did you look at it before criticizing me? Debbie also seems to think that academic opinions are facts. A simple example would have helped, but was never presented.
John McMillan June 26, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Not really that miraculous of a catch. Everyone reading this article who has been schooled in the English language should have been able to pick this out. Our education standards are just now much lower I guess...


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