Empty Adjectives

Avatar of Zoe Whitman
Sports Column

“You are sooo cute today!” A compliment to some, a glaring empty adjective to others. The empty adjective is, to some, a way of saying nothing. However, not all empty adjectives have little meaning, most are quite profound in context. The implication of empty is useless when mostly this isn’t the case. Girls are labeled as using “useless” language all the time when mostly they are discussing important topics in digestible formats. 

Empty adjectives get used most in terms of explanation, not just description. The concept of adjectives is to describe nouns. Empty adjectives, on the other hand, are adjectives that can be up to interpretation based on feeling and have no concrete meaning. Examples of empty adjectives are “cute” or “divine.” One might consider the word cute to mean childlike and innocent, whereas another might view it as a synonym for attractive and desirable. This can cause confusion and conversations fueled by emotion. 

When really considered, empty adjectives contribute emotion, but this makes conversations more meaningful to both sides. If you end up discussing something using words that already carry meaning for you, the conversation becomes more important. Having an emotional conversation isn’t a bad thing. Logic and emotion aren’t contrary ideas. A lot of the time, being emotional about something means you care. This means adding an empty adjective may mean you are adding some gas to the fire, some emotion to the conversation. 

Empty adjectives serve the purpose of creating comfort and emotion in conversation. They make conversations more fluid and result in no confirmed right or wrong. Even specialized color terms can be considered empty adjectives. For example, think of the color teal, describe it aloud, then ask your friend to do the same. Chances are your colors are different from each other (my description would be: a dark shade that is more green than blue, but with a hint of blue throughout. Generally the color of deep oceans and some peacock feathers). This becomes tricky when there are definitions of all words; something that everyone understands is supposed to be the same for everyone (yet is not). Colors are generally recognizable in broad categories. When you try to become more specific, an issue can occur because there is no common narrative. This isn’t a bad thing, just leaving room for interpretation. 

The main issue appears when people think empty adjectives are useless. They are not. Using a word is to fully consider the implications of the word prior to communicating with it. Non-men are often accused of speaking without saying anything. The empty adjective says something, people just can’t recognize the meaning when they are intentionally looking for uselessness. People are being fed a story of ditzy-ness when the word ditzy itself could be considered an empty adjective. We do not need to constantly edit ourselves to make what we are saying be heard. Instead, we could just talk and they could work around us.