When are we gonna get there? By Sue Wighton


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I ’m sick of the journey. I’m like that annoying six-year-old in the back seat whining, ‘When are we gonna get there?’

Where? I hear you ask. To a land where the word ‘journey’ may no longer be used in polite company. In this land should you utter or write this word, soap and water or a writ will surely come your way as night follows day. Once upon a time, ‘journey’ was a respectable workman-like word, deriving from the distance travelled in a day. But I’m afraid this fit-for-purpose word has been elevated way above its station and tragically overused. Sadly it’s picked up a lot of baggage along the way, becoming over-burdened with sentimentality and gravitas to the point of nauseating exhaustion.

It’s time for ‘journey’ to be put out to pasture for a while to graze among other similarly abused and exhausted words. I’m thinking here of some personal non-favourites of mine, ‘trope’ and of course ‘facilitate’ and ‘utilize’. And while we’re at it, let’s add one of the words bequeathed to us by COVID 19. People don’t adapt any more. They ‘pivot’. Seriously?

So how did ‘journey’ fall into such a desperate situation? Until the likes of celebrities started bandying it about, a journey was simply a trip from A to B. Somehow thanks to reality television and rampant over-use this humble noun has become suffused with a hero’s suffering – more akin to the journey on the road to Damascus or perhaps Homer’s Odyssey.

‘I’ve learnt so much on my journey,’ declares the latest overwrought singing star (substitute any reality television participant, recovering drug addict, celebrity chef).

The awful thing about ‘journey’ and other horrid words, like the American ‘butt’ for bottom, is that they seep into the language like some sort of noxious runoff. At first, they’re unremarkable, but pretty soon the stench is overpowering and I just want to taser the next person who mentions their amazing (awesome, life-changing) ‘journey’.

The thing that sucks the life out of all words is either abuse or overuse and sometimes both. In this case, the journey has been stuffed with corn and overly dramatic hype, then used so often in tearful confessions and conclusions that the word becomes mindlessly meaningless and hopelessly hackneyed.

And don’t we humans love to travel – on a spiritual journey, aging journey, holistic journey, breastfeeding journey? Just take any qualifier and add the word journey and it will elevate whatever you’re describing to heroic proportions – my scrapbooking journey, my journey through tinea, my incredible irritable bowel journey.

Some authors obviously believe the word journey will give their book title depth and reverence: for example, Of Mystics & Mistakes – The Journey from Confusion to Clarity, from Error to Enlightenment, from Self-Deception to Self-Discovery. Some trip that would be. Why can’t people be a little more imaginative and bring back the colour? Why not just say you’ve ‘come a long way and learnt a lot’? Or what about, ‘This whole experience has been a real trip.’ Admittedly you’ll sound like some sort of acid-affected hippy but at least it’s a colourful expression.

And if you’ve come a really, really long way, then it’s not a journey. It’s a bloody expedition! I’m completely over this idea that everyone’s life is a journey. Give me zoologist Desmond Morris’s take any time. ‘Life is like a very short visit to a toy shop between birth and death.’