My my, it’s awfully loud in here, isn’t it? I’m not sure I feel comfortable with this sort of . . . vocabulary problem. For all the mental disturbance that extreme boisterousness causes through shrill pitch and interrupting of quiet time, its most egregious fault is in the noun. Despite the frequency of rambunctious volume in daily life, finding an appropriate noun to identify that situation in modern conversation presents a surprising challenge.
This is not for lack of options. Some thoughts and events are so specific as to lend themselves poorly to identification (we don’t have a word to describe the need to hurl a puffin into a Thanksgiving parade because of course we don’t—yet), but situations exhibiting unwanted and untoward noise are so common that they have accumulated many evocative nouns with which they could coat themselves if they really wanted to, from ado on through the alphabet.
So why the language entanglement? Unfortunately, the English language moves and grows a bit like a pool of ooze erupting from under the street. Some fingers of ooze, those containing excitement adjectives or exclamations of surprise, surge down the pavement with great pace and add new terrain all the time, yet other portions remain immobile for what seems like eons.
Displeasing volume falls into the latter category. It doesn’t move or change with nearly sufficient abandon, and no one cares to come up with different ways to be upset by rowdiness. People today. It’s like they’re not even repulsed by everything. As a result, existing volume words have become entrenched in niches or caked in obsolescence. They have all gained specific genres, which makes using them in a casual, conversational, and unremarkable manner nearly impossible. When was the last time anyone casually mentioned an ado?
Many of these words have been claimed by writing. In life, loud situations don’t always require identification because everyone can hear them. There is no need to point out the problem of all those screeching otters (oh, those are people?) because that information can be communicated by a knowing look and roll of the eyes. In writing, however, every moment of loudness must be clearly identified as such, so words like ado, din, and clamor begin to sound solely literary and therefore fail to translate effortlessly into speech. Bedlam, cacophony, fracas, furor, and even uproar and commotion all appear perfectly normal and usable until the moment they escape the mouth and instantly seem far too “governess from 1910” for a simple, unironic complaint about a restaurant. Continue reading