It happened slowly, insidiously, like a giant slime mold creeping in from the East Coast. A toxic virus, invisible and deadly, infiltrated communication patterns, leaving a sickening aftertaste of disingenuity with a touch of condescension. Yes, it’s true, folks. ”artisan” has finally relinquished the crown for Most Annoying Word of the Year.
I didn’t think a word could irritate me more than “artisan”. ”Artisan” as a noun is fine and dandy, though why not simply use “artist”? Google assures me that an artisan is equivalent to a craftsperson, one who makes beautiful objects by hand. ”Artist” is not listed as a synonym. Apparently artists are craftspeople who make more expensive beautiful objects by hand.
Why must we take a perfectly functional noun and turn it into a snooty adjective? Artisan bread, artisan soap, artisan paper, artisan guitar. Even worse is the derivative artisanal. It rolls off the tongue like an incoherent pack of razor blades. All I see in that word is anal.
I have no need for the adjectival “artisan” in my daily life. I prefer “handmade” or “small-batch” or “pricey.” Instead of using this word, I kept it in the section of my brain labeled “Most Annoying Word of the Year”, where it has remained for many moons. Imagine my surprise when a quiet, unassuming four-letter word surreptitiously supplanted the reigning champion.
A few years ago, I wrote a story. Turns out if you write ten related pages a week, at the end of a year you have something resembling a novel. I figured why not try to get the darn thing published. The next logical step on the traditional publishing path was to look for an agent. I’m suspicious that my introduction to “Best” as closing salutation, or valediction, came in the form of a rejection letter:
Dear Anne Lippin:
Thank you for submitting HUMAN ANATOMY for my consideration. Unfortunately, the story didn’t resonate with me. I’m afraid I can’t offer you representation at this time.
I remember feeling confused. ”Best”? I manufactured a culture-ist backstory about how Agent X speaks with a faux British accent, dines on locally-crafted artisanal Stilton, and drives a Land Rover around Manhattan.
Many many many rejections later, I received a startling request for my full manuscript. And though I can’t find electronic or paper evidence of that original communication (the picture up top there is my desk on a good day), I’m 99.999 repeating percent certain that the email closed with “Sincerely, Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency.” I heard a trumpet fanfare leading into a thunderously powerful rendition of “Christ the Lord Is Ris’n Today” (ahhhhhhh-le-looooooo-ya).
You see, I BELIEVED HER. I believed that she was sincerely interested in looking at my full manuscript. Ms. Stringer offered me literary representation. She now signs informal emails “M”. To me, depending on the day, this means Magic, Mindful, Mature, Muse, Mythic, or Moderate. In our family, M is shorthand for Mom and seeing “M” at the end of her emails is, I’m sure, comforting on some subconscious level.
“Best” as noun, verb, or adjective is relatively unambiguous. ”Best” as valediction is never as it seems. ”All Best” seems not only deceptive, but excessive. You wish me all the best? In everything? Always? There is no way that the vast majority of email authors wish me The Best. I’m certain that at least one of them wishes I would drop a twenty pound rotten ham on my big toe.
“Best” is, at best, unrealistic. At worst, “Best” is grandiose, delusional, and supercilious. Maybe it’s my midwestern upbringing. Sincerity is good. Superlative? Not so much.
Allow me to suggest an alternative. If you absolutely cannot abide “Sincerely”, try this: