I love words. Which is a good thing, since I’m a writer. Having a love for words is one of the prerequisites of the job.
However, just because I’m a logophile (that’s someone who loves words), it doesn’t mean I love all words. The fact is, there are certain words I don’t like (synergy and I just never connected), words I ignore (I won’t give leverage the time of day), and words I simply distrust (moist sounds like a sneaky bastard). There are even words I outright hate (I’m talking to you, solutions). But the words I particularly loathe (now there’s a word I love) are the ones often used to refer to what I do—which is write—and what I produce—which is copy. These words are blurb, content, and wordsmith.
Let’s start with something small and inconsequential, like blurb. As in, “We just need a little blurb right here to go with the visual.” It’s a squib of a word that sounds unpleasant and embarrassing, like it relates more to a bodily function than an actual bit of writing. Just a burp of copy. The effluvium of an undigested paragraph or concept. I try not to blurb too often. But when I do, I always make sure to excuse myself.
Then there’s content. Is there a word for writing that’s any more sterile and uninspiring? If there is, please let me know. Or actually, don’t, because calling what I write content is depressing enough. Content is something that’s packaged and shipped. It comes in boxes, bottles, and cans. People don’t read content—they consume it. So let’s just stick to calling writing writing, shall we? But if you simply can’t bring yourself to call it that, if you feel the need for jargon, I’ll accept messaging—albeit begrudgingly.
Which brings us, finally, to wordsmith. Of the three, this is the one I hate the most—and hear all the time.
“Can you wordsmith the copy a little?”
“The client provided edits, but they need some wordsmithing.”
“You’re the wordsmith—I’m sure you’ll come up with something great.”
Whenever I hear it, I imagine myself wearing a leather blacksmith’s smock, sweating before the fire as I pull red-hot ideas from the forge and hammer them into words upon a heavy anvil like some character in an old western movie.
“Here ye go, Marshall Dillon—I smithied you up the word bumfuzzle!”
I get that writing is a craft. And I certainly sweat when I’m engaged in it—particularly under a deadline. But since there’s no such thing as a wordsmithy, can we please dispense with wordsmith? Isn’t writer sufficient enough? There’s already an implied mystery and artistry in that word. Why the compulsion to dress it up and make it all quaint and cutesy?
So go ahead, tell me to write a blurb or create some content for a website if you must, but please don’t call me wordsmith—unless, of course, you want to give me one of those cool leather blacksmith aprons to wear.