Words I Hate + Makeup I Love.

By: Jen Shoop

Last week, I shared a few things I’d learned recently.  As a result of this exercise in personal accounting, I have repudiated the word “unlikeable,” which, I’d discovered, I had been using solely, squarely in the description of women with strident personalities.  Men of the same ilk were “aggressive” or “assertive” or “brash.”  Yuck yuck yuck.  YUCK.  A few of you had some interesting reactions to this point, so I did a little digging around.  I came across an interesting post on the perception of female voices in politics.  This observation was piquant: “Think about Jeb Bush’s voice. It’s so—wait, what does it sound like again? He sounds just … like a guy, maybe?”  Women in politics, the author demonstrates, are rarely afforded such latitude.

A few other words I despise:

+Shrill.  (Same category as “unlikeable.”  Overly gendered.)

+Just.  (Mr. Magpie and I collectively banned this word from our vocabulary while running our business — we found ourselves writing, flabbily: “I’m just checking in on this note…” or “Just wondering whether…”  The just always undercut our let’s-get-down-to-business mentality and cast us as flustered, docile Hugh Grant-like wimby nimbies.)

+Very.  (I tend to over-lean on “extraordinarily” as a substitute because sometimes you need an exclamation point tacked onto your adjective, but, in truth, it’s scarcely an improvement.)

+Hack.  (I have more of a problem with the meaning of this word and its abuse in the startup world in particular — #growthhacking, #solutionhack.  #BARF.  In my opinion, there are few short-cuts in business — or in life.  Nearly anything worth doing requires hard work and dedication, and approaching these challenges the hard and honest way tends to pay off manifold.)

+Plopped.  (A purely aesthetic judgment, but this word is, simply, unseemly.  It’s overused in contemporary fiction writing: “She plopped down on the couch”; “He plopped down beside her.”  Never describe me as plopping anywhere, pls + ty.)

+Pulchritude.  (An unlikely companion to its intended meaning (beauty), this word is hideous.  The adjectival form is worse: pulchritudinous.  Don’t call me pretty at all if you need to use this behemoth.)

+Synergy.  (The most egregious case of corporate speak I can think of.)

+Competitive advantage.  (What this really means, in the mouth of 99% of all VCs, is: “What insider do you have a relationship with that will make it easy to close massive deals?”  Sounds innocuous enough — “tell me what makes you different and better than competitors?” — but actually winks conspiratorially at the cabalistic practices of the industry: “who do you know?” AKA, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.)

+The usual parade of disgusting medicinal/bodily descriptors: pus, ointment, scab, etc.  (These are, however, necessary and aesthetically apposite to the circumstance.)

+Overly pretentious words and phrases, like “plethora,” “if you will,” “studentry.”  These call to mind George Orwell’s famous little piece, Politics and the English Language, where he shares the following six rules of writing:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I read Orwell’s piece in high school (woah, second shout-out to the excellent English faculty at Georgetown Visitation in a week!) and took it as Gospel.  I’ve since committed a trillion and ten infractions, including in this post, which is — admittedly — written in a mildly sardonic tone channeling a know-it-all grammarian, purely for effect — though even Orwell allows, in his sixth rule, that there are times and places for errythang.  (I do not agree, however, with his Hemingway-esque view that simple is always better.  We have a beautiful language at our disposal: why not use le mot juste? [Ed. note: Infraction against rule v.]  Why not travel the vast expanse of the vocabulary we have to keep things interesting?  I recently read an article that left me feeling…smeh.  In its aftermath, I was the emotional equivalent of dishwater blond: listless, uninspired, wishy-washy.  I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on; the topic had been interesting enough.  And that’s when I realized that the author’s writing was bland, drab, unornamented.  The word choice (“w.c.” as Mrs. Mattingly used to write in the margins of my papers when I’d used a malapropism or exercised too much creativity) was overly generic.  Snooze fest central.  So, yah.  I’ll strain for the more colorful wherever possible.)

What words do you hate?

Post-Script: Makeup I Love.

I realize this section makes for odd bedfellows with the previous linguistic jaunt, but…c’est la vie.  I’ve already shared my all-time favorite cosmetics, but thought I’d share a few recent entrants into the daily regimen:

+Nars liquid blush.  This took a minute to get the hang of — the first time I used it, I pumped out a nice-sized blob of product and immediately transformed myself into a clown heading to the big tent at Barnum + Bailey.  You need only the teensiest weensiest amount of this stuff, and then you need to learn, through trial and error, exactly where to apply it on your cheek.  But once you do, it’s pure magic.  It looks natural — as though you’re lit from within.  Love love love.

+Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench.  I’m loyal to my peony perfecting cream for everyday hydration, but had a tub of this I’d picked up while temporarily homeless in the botched move to New York and decided to give it a try.  It’s unlike any product I’ve ever used — it feels like what I imagine “lipids” feel like…sort of fatty/greasy to the touch but then it glides into the skin and really hydrates.  I’m impressed with the results.  My skin looks plumped, refreshed, alive with it.  Worth a test drive during these drying winter months.

+Smashbox Limitless Liquid Liner Pen.  WOW.  This is my new go-to liner, and here’s why: it dries matte.  How many black liners dry with a weird sheen, suggesting, ever so subtly, you may have been wearing it out clubbing the night before but forgotten to dry it off this morning?  I love this for everyday wear because the felt tip point enables me to draw the slimmest little matte line to offer definition to my lash line without looking like I’m dressing up as Cleopatra at 9 a.m.

+Makeup Forever Ultra HD Concealer.  Not a five-star product, but a solid one, and — as I’ve shared many times, I still cannot find a perfect concealer, so I’ll take it.  I like that it is non-drying and non-cake-y.  (<< Horrible writing, mais je ne regrette rien, Orwell.)  It doesn’t have much lightness/reflection in it, though — v. matte — and I feel more comfortable with something that has a little bit of illumination to it.

+Bumble + Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Primer.  I love this spray!  I put it on after toweling my hair dry a bit and then sleep in it.  It leaves my hair super soft and malleable the next morning when I’m styling it.  I also love the scent and love that it doesn’t add any stiffness/greasiness!

+Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser.  I have been loathe to switch up my skincare routine because I’m prone to breakouts when I switch things up, but I LOVED the sample I received of this.  It has little beads that exfoliate, smells organic-y (haha), and leaves the skin feeling super clean.

+This makeup shelf!!!  I don’t own it but DAYUM.  If I lived alone in a bachelorette pad, I’d totally install this on my wall.  Love.

P.S.  A chic-looking basket at a good price.  I have so many baskets in my house to store books, toys, blankets, etc.  Love this one.

P.P.S.  I have recently heard so many people rave about this, and was then shocked at the rave reviews online — nearly 26,000 reviews and nearly five stars?!  Will this change my life?!?!?!?  What am I waiting for?!  Tell me if you’ve used this!

P.P.P.S.  I love this print.  Would look great on my gallery wall…

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23 thoughts on “Words I Hate + Makeup I Love.

  1. First time commenting, but I’ve been a reader for several months and must say that your posts always resonate and make me think – thank you for that!!

    I appreciate the reminder about Orwell’s rules of writing, too. File that under things I should put on a Pinterest board (or my desk calendar). I agree with most everything on your list, and have to add (I’m sorry, everyone) certain colloquialisms, like “my bad” (which is akin to chewing on aluminum for me) and “in a minute” as a descriptor for a period of time that is anything but sixty seconds.

    Thanks again for another lovely post!

    1. Thank you so much for this kind note! Oh man, your note about “my bad” reminds me that it used to drive my Dad crazy when I would reply to his offer of anything (juice, a ride, etc.) with: “I’m good,” as in “no thanks, I don’t need that.” It was such annoying shorthand and I cringe when I let it fly nowadays!!

      Thanks for chiming in!


  2. “Like a pedal-powered wheelchair: ill-conceived and useless.”
    This was jarring, especially after a paragraph about personal accountability and assumptions in language. People use wheelchairs for various reasons and in different situations, and there must be better colorful analogies you could have chosen instead.

    1. I totally agree, Amy – I cringed re-reading this post after your comment. Thanks for the nudge. I’ve updated it.


  3. I was playing with the liquid blushes over the weekend and Orgasm is super pretty. The other colors seem a bit insense for pale ghosties like me, but it’s nice to have the color of the original Orgasm without the glitter of the powder. You can’t always be rocking full glitter cheeks. I think I’ll add it to my next order!

    Amazing concealer is a bit thick, it’s definitely full coverage, but it does such a great job covering my dark circles. It’s like Photoshop for your actual face. Sometimes I’m lazy about it because you do have to take time to apply properly (a light touch and lots of tapping with the ring finger), but when I do take the time I’m always thrilled. And it stays put! And it comes in tons and tons (like 30-ish) of shades!

  4. Yes, yes, yes to the Instant pot. It’s great. I love that you can saute in the pot. It’s perfect for a great meal during busy times. Also, spaghetti squash in 6 minutes.
    Also, yes to the Peter Thomas Roth cream. I love your description, fatty/greasy. It’s the only thing that healed my dry skin this winter.

    1. Wut. I am so fascinated by this apparent secret to the universe! Thanks for sharing your review!

      YES, the Roth stuff is really hydrating. A lifesaver during this overcold winter!

  5. there are words (not just phrases that are fashionable to use) – just every day words I just don’t like – especially the word ‘hate’ , The Barefoot Contessa uses it all the time I had to stop watching her. Also cannot stand the words bucks and cops!

    1. Ah! Then you must not have liked the title of this post — oops! I know what you mean, though; there are a whole crop of everyday words that are either overused or boring or grating.

  6. So many thoughts…
    -Competitive advantage — ah, the super secret meaning we haven’t learned yet in business school!
    -Nars blush — I have become a HUGE Nars fan and love their tinted moisturizer, Multiple sticks, and lippies. I swatched the liquid blushes for a friend and was impressed but forgot I wanted to try it myself. What color are you using?
    -concealer: there are some REALLY good ones, I have a few on rotation. Amazing (that’s the brand name) concealer, perfect for undereye. Cle de Peau (pricey but so good). Everyone loves Tarte Shape Tape but I can never seem to find it in stores…
    -InstantPot — I got one for Christmas and I’m so excited by it but it’s a little intimidating to get started. There are probably some YouTube videos to tell me what to do, right?

    1. So much here:

      +Haha — “super secret meaning.” Cabalism!

      +Nars, I have the “orgasm” color and it is stunning. I also dab it on my lips. I love how multi-purpose so many of their products are!

      +I need to try Amazing concealer! Had not heard of it. What do you like about it? I like Cle de Peau too — maybe I need to return to them actually. I’d forgotten about them in part because it’s so expensive…but it might well be the best of breed. Tarte Shape is super thick and almost cake-y to me. I mean it covers a whole manner of sins but maybe just a tad much…

      +InstantPot!!! I can’t believe how many of you are into this!

  7. Along the “pulchritude” lines: crepuscular. The meaning — related to twilight — is lovely, but I can never bring myself to use it (just as well, as it also violates Orwell’s short>long maxim).

    1. WOAH. Crepuscular! It sounds like some sort of physical ailment in adjective form. I’d feel like such a snoot using it in my writing, too. Sort of like “avuncular.” I’ve admired it in the prose of other writers but it just feels awkward when I try to work it in. xo

    2. Was coming here to add ‘curate’, but I see that someone beat me to the punch! That has to be my #1 these days, especially being friends with actual curators. It denigrates their profession, in my opinion! Maybe an extreme emotion, but I stand by it. Ha!

      I have ALWAYS felt the same way about ‘pulchritude’ and ‘pulchritudinous’ (barrrrf), btw. AND have been trying to limit my use of ‘just’ in work emails. We’re soul sisters!

      OK, now onto the makeup. I love the idea of the NARS liquid blush, as I have been faithful to the powder version of Orgasm for many years. Recently I have come to love Glossier’s Cloud Paint, and this formula seems similar in that it only takes a tiny dab. Must try! Speaking of NARS, their eyeliner pens remind me of the Smashbox one you posted — I have this one in both dark grey (softer on my northern Euro coloring) and navy (to switch things up!):

      Tata Harper! I have wanted to check out her line forevvvver and really want to try the cleanser. It sounds lovely.

      P.S. I don’t have an Instant Pot but I have a Crock Pot and I fully second Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant, as someone mentioned below, as well as Liana Krissoff’s Slow Cook Modern. 🙂

      1. Dark gray eyeliner! Had never even considered it — genius. Going to give that a try. I think you’ll like the Nars blush if you’re already deft at applying cloud paint!

        I hear you on “curation” — in fact, these comments have led me to all but banish it from my vocab! xo

  8. Seconding “curate”! Most of your list resonates with me, though, particularly “just”…I’ve been trying to make a more conscious effort to leave it out of emails and texts where I’m asking for something. But then I often end up throwing in an “!” to “balance things out,” which probably defeats the purpose. Baby steps, I guess!

    1. Yes — and when I first became aware of the tic, I felt that my emails sounded 10x more angry and bossy without the soft “just” appended to them. But, baby steps; you’ll eventually feel at home in your newfound girlboss email voice 🙂

  9. The instant pot is magical. Magical. Example: Making a beautiful short rib in 50 minutes (Every bit as good as when it slow cooks on the stove. It feels like cheating, but such is technology). Make steel-cut oatmeal, quickly, without an explosion around your stove. Put anything you want to heat up, lock the steam valve, steam for 5min, voila, beautiful temperature, heat even, and none of the nasty properties of the microwave. I could go on. To start buy Melissa Clark’s “Dinner in an Instant.” IP is life-changing.

    1. Woahhhh — OK, this is now at the top of my wishlist. What a review! Also, I love the way you wrote this — can you please start writing descriptions for products on Amazon?! (“Without an explosion around your stove” — haha!) Thanks for taking the time to share this.

  10. “Curate”. So over it. If I had a dime for every time someone curated a collection of something (bloggers and irl folks)…

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