I recently discovered the worst word in the world, which is really weird when you consider it's one that everyone's heard since childhood. I never paid it much attention, because under normal circumstances, it's just a nothing of a term. Totally neutral in every way. As words go, it's a baked potato with no toppings. But, when you become that word yourself, the whole world changes. That word is "fiancee." No, seriously, let me explain.
You think you're sick of talking about your wedding with your actual friends and family? Here's some fun news: Whenever you let those three French-ass syllables slip to anyone -- co-worker, retail employee, Uber driver who was hitting on you and will continue to hit on you -- it's instantly open season for that person to disregard the entire conversation up until that millisecond and abruptly start grilling you on colors.
It doesn't matter who you're talking to or what the context is, forget it -- the F-word is a blaring small-talk siren that forces seemingly reasonable people to forget whatever they were just doing and start reciting the "Basic Wedding Shit" Questionnaire. You could be seconds away from life-threatening surgery to remove a sac of spider eggs from your cornea, but God help you if you ask the doctor, "Can I drive home after this, or should I have my fiancee come pick me up?" The doctor WILL cry from behind the giant industrial laser, "Oh my God congratulations! When's the wedding?"
"Ooh! That IS a month! Where's it at?"
"Some town you haven't heard of."
"Is that near this other town that I have heard of?"
"It is nowhere near that fucking town."
"What's the venue like?"
"Bunch of tables with cursive-ey shit on them IT'S ANY WEDDING! WHYYY DO YOU CARE??"
Earlier that week, your family got into a massive fight that somehow ended with your aunt's boyfriend slashing the tires of a potential videographer, but yes, you definitely want to spend more of your waking hours discussing your wedding with humans who could fall into a volcano one sentence later without it impacting your life.
And on the flipside ...
Uh oh, a friend of a friend just mentioned her "fiancee" and you're 83 percent sure that's the first time she's dropped that bomb in front of you. Do you congratulate her? That's polite, right? Or will that derail the conversation you were just having, because then you'll all be reluctantly talking about wedding shit? Or is it weirder if you don't say anything? She kinda leaned into the word a bit, like she was pretty excited to say it -- maybe you're being a dick if you don't say something? You better say something. But wait, you just got done ranting about how mad you were whenever you'd say "fiancee" and everyone would start gushing about your wedding, and then you'd feel awkward about all the sudden attention, and all the ...
Oh, whoops. Four days have just passed. You never responded. You spent the entire rest of the conversation thinking about the word "fiancee," and even though you never acted on it, it still managed to ruin the entire conversation. You just stood there silently while everyone left, and now you haven't slept in four days, and you've got a long white beard, and all your loved ones are dead (including your fiancee), and the red sands of AMERICA-X cover the ruined post-apocalyptic country that lies beneath your feet. It's been a very eventful four days.
Here's how annoying this word is: You'll start a sentence, realize that you're going to have to say "fiancee" eventually in that sentence, and immediately get mad at yourself. You'll see the word up ahead like you just made eye contact with someone you don't want to say hi to, and now you just have to trudge that last obligatory half-block before removing your headphones and pausing your phone and hoping one of you has the guts to lie about being in a rush somewhere.
Then, you think to yourself, "I'll just blow right through it, say the word really casually and overly-Anglicized so it doesn't sound all fancy and dumb, and we'll get on with our lives." But guess what? YOU CAN'T. The word won't let you. The word itself forces you to do a French accent for .21 seconds.
This isn't some French-derived word that you can gloss over like "croissant" -- "fiancee" is three distinct syllables, plus an accent mark (our site doesn't display special characters, but trust me, it's there), presented in increasing order of Frenchness. There's a bunch of French-derived words in English, obviously, but most of them been eroded over time into nice, comfortable-sounding garbage that we don't have to work to pronounce. And the ones that aren't -- holdouts like "rendezvous" and "a la mode" -- are things we can absolutely go our entire lives without ever really needing to say, unless you're a starship captain who's obsessed with pie.
Imagine, though, if you attended a work function and had to say the phrase "mise en place" to 27 consecutive couples you introduced yourself to. Every person in the room would rightfully be making fun of you the second they left the conversation.
Somehow the English language, which has 95 trillion words in it and adds dozens more every year, decided: "What if instead of having an actual word for "long-term boyfriend or girlfriend," we made people sing a snippet of "Alouette" to convey their intermediate marriage-limbo status to every acquaintance they met for a long period of their lives?"
How do we not have a better word for this? There's "partner," but unless you're a same-sex couple, "partner" automatically sounds impersonal and borderline insidious, as though you and your "partner" run some bottom-dealing poker grift to shake down the rubes on a riverboat.
You technically could continue to say "boyfriend / girlfriend," but then it seems like you're ducking the commitment, especially if the other person's with you. You could say the extremely romantic phrase "long-term girlfriend," but everyone who hears you will be awaiting the breakup before you're done uttering the hyphen. Where else are you gonna go? My "betrothed"? You need an eighteen-inch pouf to even think that word.
Here are 31 "synonyms" listed for fiance / fiancee, and every single one of them is 1) Not a synonym, and 2) ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE creepier:
"Have you met Dan, my ADMIRER?" What the fuck, English? We stole every word from every other language ever and we still haven't sorted this shit out? (P.S. I'm all-in on "squire" if we've got the votes.)
For those of you who haven't gone through this process yet but plan to someday, I apologize. But there's a silver lining -- you know how happy couples always look when they're scampering back down the aisle together right after they've been wed? That's because from that moment on, they never have to say that goddamn word ever again. Also, love. Mostly the word thing though.
But until then, enjoy spending a year of your life sounding like a dumbass waiter from the start of an improv scene.
Dan Hopper is an editor for Cracked, previously for CollegeHumor and BestWeekEver.tv. He fires off consistent A-minus tweets at @DanHopp.
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