Here’s a fun fact that’ll help you score exactly zero dates at any point in the near future: there are currently an estimated 1,025, 109 words in the English language. Each year the English language as we know it continues to grow and expand to include all of the latest and greatest words that have managed to become entwined in the giant cauldron of soup that is our modern pop culture. In 2013 alone we had twelve new words make their way into the Oxford Dictionary’s hallowed halls, and modern sentences enhancers like twerk, phablet, and selfie managed to sneak their way into prose immortality.
Yes, it’s true, the English language is constantly growing. But you wouldn’t know that judging by some of the material that we see coming out of the bodybuilding world. For all of the growth that the sport has achieved over the last decade including: the addition of the 212, Bikini, and Physique Divisions, the explosion in web based content, the slow asphyxiating death of print media, the era of the podcast, live streaming video, and the first national television coverage that the sport’s had in in twenty years – one thing has remained relatively unchanged; the language.
While both the sport and the English language might be expanding, the language that permeates the entire bodybuilding culture has all the freshness of that two week old container of rice that’s been festering in the back of your refrigerator. Writing insightful columns with colorful language and big words gets looked down on and passed over for the same “dumb it down” regurgitated content that has been recycled over and over again since print was first put to page.
Go pick up a copy of an IronMan or Muscular Development magazine from the 1980’s, hold it side-by-side with some of today’s content, and tell me if what you see in front of you represents an evolution of twenty to thirty years of thoughts, opinions, and ideas. The language is very much the same, only the faces have changed and the physiques have morphed from crazy to caricature.
I’m purposing a change. If Oxford can add words to enhance the English language and keep up with modern times then there’s no reason bodybuilding can’t do the same. That means it’s time to go out with the old and in with the new – as they say. From here on out the following words are officially headed to the bodybuilding media graveyard. They’ve been over-written, over-spoken, and overused for so long that the only way to get rid of them is to just flat out quit cold turkey. They’ve become a sort of language crutch for the closed minded and uncreative – and that means it’s time for them to go.
The 2014 Inductee’s
Potential – Could we potentially use the word potential to potentially describe, or potentially discuss, or potentially debate another athlete’s potential, genetic potential, earning potential, or potential for failure anymore? Did I drive home my point yet? Here’s one more for good measure – potential. The word has become so overused that anyone with any true – dare I say it – potential becomes undervalued. It’s served us well for the last few decades, but it’s time to give potential a severance package and send it on its way out into the world to be adopted by someone who won’t abuse it anymore, and that will give it a warm, loving new home.
Freak – Freak, freaky, genetic freaky, or any other addition or derivative of the word has to go. I’ll agree that in some cases the word freak is absolutely applicable in bodybuilding, but when we start calling the welterweight with crazy shape and sharp conditioning a “freak” then what do we call someone like Phil Heath – other than 4x Mr. Olympia? Freak was cool, it was awesome, it had its fifteen minutes of fame – and then it extended that for a decade or so – and now it’s time to de-freakify bodybuilding. Now, if you please, let’s take a moment of silence to remember all of the freaks of yesteryear before we throw six feet of dirt on top of this five letter word and all agree that enough is enough.
Big – If you’ve been wondering where that smell was coming from the entire time you’ve been reading this article – you’ve officially found it. It’s the dead, rotting carcass of the word big. We’ve been keeping it around for the last few decades, pretending that it was still alive, that it still meant something. We tried attaching it over and over again to different athletes in the hope that it would go biblical on us and rise from the dead like Lazarus, but alas, I think it’s finally time for us to address the unbearable stench of stagnant creativity that’s been floating like a cloud of mustard gas around Big’s head for the last twenty years. Nothing screams “I can’t come up with an original thought” more than assigning the nickname “Big” to a bodybuilder. Can we please, for the sake of all things muscle, just give the word Big a lifetime achievement award and send it on its way to retirement so that it can fade away into obscurity like everything else that retires seems to do? Big has served us well, but it reeks of Bengay and death. It’s time to set it free.
Yes, that’s it, only three. Think of this like contest dieting. We need to ease into it because if we lose too much too soon, it’s going to hinder our results in the long run. Instead, we’re going to adjust slowly, make a few changes, and give the fans and the media time to adjust before doing anything crazy. This way our progress sticks, our product shines, and as we figure out how to etch in the details to our new look, it allows us to bring a fuller, more well-rounded and impressive overall package. And that’s all every bodybuilder really wants isn’t it?