“Curate” has been an inexplicable buzzword this year. People tend to use it to describe a method of people choosing things that they think look nice or go well together. Ooh, look, she curated a bouquet of flowers. He curated this wine and that cheese. She curated a wedding board on Pinterest. Because it takes a lot of thought and effort to click the little “Pin It” button next to something you want on the internet.

Yeah, no.

That’s just wrong.

The act of “curating” goes beyond a scrapbooking mentality. It implies that you care for objects and that you are holding them in trust for the general public and posterity. You can curate paintings, sculptures, instruments, dinosaur bones, gemstones, plants, books, even animals. You have to care for them. You have to know about them. You have to share that knowledge with others.

Therefore, contrary to popular belief, you cannot curate any of the following:

  • Shopping lists on Etsy
  • A Pinterest board
  • Fireworks
  • Playlists on Spotify
  • Dinner menus
  • An outfit
  • Your closet
  • Thrift shops
  • Food trucks
  • Burlesque nightclubs

I might be okay with all of this if I knew people were using the word “curate” like sometimes we use “doctor,” as in “I’m going to doctor this recipe.” I know you’re not going to heal the recipe. I know you’re going to tweak it a bit. But I don’t think people see the difference in using “curate” as a descriptive verb to organize things and “curate” like it’s someone’s job to actually care for things. I don’t think those people realize that Usher was not a “guest curator” when he picked out a play list for this year’s July 4th fireworks in New York. Neither are people “guest curators” on Etsy when they put together shopping lists of things that have owls on them. You wouldn’t call someone who doctors a recipe a “doctor of recipes.” I’m not trying to say that you HAVE to have a Ph.D. in art in order to be a curator. But I am saying that the task involves more than putting pretty things next to each other.