Is that Nat King Cole You’re Singing?

The tables are sticky with spilled beer and the lights are causing you to squint. You shield your hand against your forehead and focus on the text to Nat King Cole’s L-O-V-E because you’re tipsy and don’t know what else to sing. Yeah, we see you. You let your co-workers’ “It’ll be fuuuun!” rob you of your self-respect.

But this is a big moment. An event that happens once in awhile on Radio Minerva or at your Grandma’s house. Wait, here it is, the chorus: “V is …”  Savor it! …Wow! It’s over. You hand back the mic and rejoin the ginormous population of English users who should only deploy the word that comes before ex-tra-or-din-ary when Nat King Cole is playing. You stumble off the stage and say goodbye, ciao, sayonara, adios.

Very has to go — banished like future karaoke nights.

You see, very might feel good at first, but it’s the aspartame of sweet phrasing, a word substitute. Consumers taste the difference the same way they can tell if sodas are watered down or a talentless sap is on vocals. It takes the rare gift of a velvet-voiced crooner or skilled writer to belt out a soulful sentence with “very.”

Think of very as a carcinogen to writing, speech, ideas. Staying loyal is as toxic as roach poison. You mean very kills cockroaches like aspartame? —No, that’s an urban myth. Cockroaches will survive a nuclear holocaust like Mom jeans and bad grammar. Very is a similarly indestructible pest.

Kill very the way you kill anything: indifference. Ignore very; don’t use it. Cheat on very with words that have depth, meaning, and the delicate touch of expensive perfume. Your communication will sound confident, appealing, even ex-tra-or-din-ary à la the silky stylings of Mr. Cole.

WritersWrite in South Africa has both a nifty Mark Twain trick and 45 substitutes for very. Cue up the L-O-V-E and ditch the artificially sweetened Diet Coke while you’re at it. Real always trumps fake.