I’m reading a book set in Australia in the early 1800s. Or rather, I was reading it. The author seemed competent, the story flowed, and the characters were engaging. Then all of a sudden I was jerked out of the fictive dream. “She had the intestinal fortitude necessary to help build this new country.” What? Intestinal fortitude in the 1800s? I think not.
First, intestinal fortitude is a ridiculous euphemism for guts. Fortitude is courage. Period. It needs no modifier. And it has nothing to do with intestines. Sure, some people do get cramps or diarrhea when facing fear, but then it’s up to the author to show it rather than relying on the wretched phrase “intestinal fortitude.”
Second, guts meaning fortitude did not make an appearance until the 1930s. Which means that the euphemism intestinal fortitude came later.
There are certain terms I would like to rub out of the English language. Intestinal fortitude is one. Coed is another. What a patronizing term! Coed is short for coeducational and refers to the women who were allowed into previously all male colleges and universities. Perhaps it had meaning back in the nineteen-thirties, but its use today is demeaning. It says men are educated, and women are co-educated. (Like a pilot and co-pilot.) So please, do not use coed. Student is sufficient, or woman student if you have to differentiate.
Another term that grates is excess verbiage. Verbiage means excess words, so excess verbiage is excess excess words. Doesn’t even make sense. Nor does “reiterate again”. Reiterate means to say again and again. Reiterate again means to say again and again, again and again.
The moral of the story? Don’t take any of your words for granted. They are a gift. And a responsibility.