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Introduction and Table of Contents

Were I but King of Anglophonia

Think before You Fad

If every one else were jumping out the window, would you do the same? Maybe you would. Never mind that. The King orders you not to unthinkingly misuse currently popular words or phrases just because others are doing so. Two examples of this transgression that annoy the King very much – and you should always try not to annoy a King – are the careless use of implode and epicenter.

Now, both of these words have specific meanings, and those meanings preclude using the words the way they are usually used in 21st-century America.

An implosion is a violent collapse inwards, the opposite of an explosion, in which an object disintegrates and its part fly violently outwards. A buildings explodes, for example, when it becomes filled with natural gas and some unfortunate fellow lights a match. A building implodes, usually, because ingenious engineers plant explosives in cunningly chosen places, so that simultaneously setting off all the explosives causes the building’s supporting structures to disintegrate at the same moment.

Empires and nations and corporations and political campaigns do not implode. They decline, or they dwindle away, or they collapse, or they disintegrate. For example, if the American people ever wake up, George Bush’s credibility will not implode; it will evaporate. Nor will he implode, although perhaps he’ll hold his breath and kick his little feet until his head explodes.

Epicenter is used by geologists to refer to the point on the surface of the earth closest to the center of an earthquake. The center is underground. The epicenter is above it, on the surface. The prefix epi- is not an intensifier. That is, an epicenter is not a more intense or striking kind of center. Yet this is how the word epicenter is commonly misused. For example, a television newsreader might say that the mayor’s office is the epicenter (or even worse, “at the epicenter”) of some scandal in local government. The overpaid television creature, or the behind-the-scenes writer, thinks that this is more impressive and makes the mayor’s office seem even more significantly the center of the scandal. Literally, though, it means that the real scandal is happening somewhere below ground, beneath the mayor’s office.

Now, it’s just slightly possible that the newsreader was using a clever metaphor, implying that the mayor and his office are merely surface manifestations of some deeper, greater evil. (See Vampire Slayer, Buffy, Hellmouth.) But you and the King both know that newsreaders are paid merely to be moderately pretty and that they are not capable of thought processes of such complexity and sophistication. On the other hand, if an intelligent person somehow managed to slip through the corporate media filter, became a newsreader, and said that during the illegitimate Bush maladministration, the Oval Office became the epicenter of evil, corruption, and attitudes inimical and contradictory to the ideals on which America is based, then the King would probably accept that usage.

Why do people and television newsreaders keep misusing these words? Perhaps because they have heard these misuses so often that they think they are correct. Or more likely, they simply don’t think. They repeat a word or a phrase by rote, without thinking about its real meaning and proper use. Be you not as they.


Those who displease the King by the sort of thoughtless misuse outlined in this section will be required to jump out of a second-floor window repeatedly every day for six months. (That’s the American second floor. In European terms, it’s the first floor. The King is not overly harsh.)

Introduction and Table of Contents

Main PageBusiness Secrets from the StarsEssaysNovels & Short StoriesAnother Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor's JourneyTell a friend about this pageE-mail