"Interesting," the most overused word in academia and perhaps, the world.

One of the cooler photos from a Google Images search of "interesting,"
from a post on "interesting bus stops around the world." Photo credit.
That’s interesting!
How interesting…
That’s… interesting…

Lately, I’ve made a study of interesting. I know that The Most Interesting Man in the World makes me laugh. I know that beginning graduate students overuse the phrase “I’m interested in” to describe what they hope to someday research maybe. I know that I heard "interesting" at least 7,000 times at the recent National Communication Association conference in New Orleans.

I also know that “Interesting” can be used as a response to phenomena that are curious, compelling, boring, startling, stupefying, awkward and/or troubling. In turn, “interesting” can be engaged, noncommittal, offhand, off-putting, sincere or sarcastic. In short, interesting seems to mean everything… and absolutely nothing at all. And the most problematic thing? I say it all. the. time.

Sony sushi? From a gallery of "Interesting, weird, and cool pictures" here.
Although I’m better than I used to be since penning this post about overused words such as “amazing” and “awesome,” I find myself intrigued by my employment of the word “interesting.” When do I say it? To students whose papers I find compelling. To students whose papers I find so horrible I can’t think of a kind word to say. About ideas I find provocative. About ideas I find stupid but I’m too polite to say so. In response to academic articles I find surprising. In response to academic articles I didn’t have time to read. When I have nothing else to say.

What to do. What to dooooo??

After hitting the thesaurus, I feel compelled to call for a little more precision in language. May I suggest a few adjustments to the academic vocabulary in particular and the world vocabulary in general? Try replacing some of your "interestings" with one of these related and more descriptive synonyms:

Thoughts? Do you have words you over-use?


* I’ll let you know if I ever use these words on undergrad papers with any sincerity…

From a post about "interesting" products here.

One of the most "interesting and creative" advertisements, apparently. See here.

Okay, I admit walking and reading is dangerous sometimes. Interesting desktop wallpapers.

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