Last Thursday at Thanksgiving dinner, a few of my cousins and I spent a solid 30 minutes trying to explain the evolution of the meaning of the word “extra” to one of our aunts. Traditionally, the word just means “more than is due, usual or necessary.” But recently, we — meaning mostly young people — have adopted it to describe something (or someone) that is over-the-top, excessive and usually kind of annoying. Uses of the word can be benign; the other day I was shopping with a friend, and she asked me if the skirt she was trying on was “too extra to wear to class.”
But other times, the word, and the sentiment behind it, is used to criticize effort and sincerity, like the girl who raises her hand “too often” in class or the guy who posts “too openly” about his life on Facebook. While we tried to explain this to our aunt, she kept getting caught up on what she perceived to be the neutral nature of the word. “Doesn’t extra just mean more?” Well, yes and no.