Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Banished Words for 2011

Every year since 1971, Michigan's Lake Superior State University has released a thoughtful and humorous "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness." Here is the 2011 (and thirty sixth annual) edition, for your reading enjoyment on this New Year's Day:
VIRAL — "Often used to describe the spreading of items on the Internet i.e. 'The video went viral.' It is overused. I have no objection to this word's use as a way to differentiate a (viral) illness from bacterial." — Jim Cance, Plainwell, Mich.

"This linguistic disease of a term must be quarantined." — Kuahmel Allah, Los Angeles, Calif.

"Events, photographs, written pieces and even occasional videos that attracted a great deal of attention once were simply highly publicized, repeated in news broadcasts, and talked about for a few days. Now, however, it is no longer enough to give such offerings their 15 minutes of fame, but they must be declared to 'go viral.' As a result, any mindless stunt or vapid bit of writing is sent by its creators whirling around the Internet and, once whirled, its creators declare it (trumpets here) 'viral!' Enough already! If anything is to be declared worthy enough to 'go viral,' clearly it should be the LSSU Banished Words list for 2011!" — Lawrence Mickel, Coventry, Conn.

"I knew it was time when the 2010 list of banished words appeared in Time magazine's, 'That Viral Thing' column." — Dave Schaefer, Glenview, Ill.

"I didn't mind much when 'viral' came to mean an under-handed tactic by advertising companies to make their ads look like pop culture. However, now anything that becomes popular on YouTube is suddenly 'viral.' I just don't get it." Kevin Wood, Wallacetown, Ont.

"Every time I see a viral video on CNN or am asked to 'Let's go viral with this' in another lame e-mail forwarded message, it makes me sick." — Lian Schmidt, Bandon, Ore.

EPIC — More than one nominator says the use of 'epic' has become an epic annoyance.

"Cecil B. DeMille movies are epic. Internet fallouts and opinions delivered in caps-lock are not. 'Epic fail,' 'epic win', 'epic (noun)' -- it doesn't matter; it needs to be banished until people recognize that echoing trite, hyperbolic Internet phrases in an effort to look witty or intelligent actually achieves the opposite." — Kim U., Des Moines, Iowa.

"Over-use of the word 'epic' has reached epic proportions." — Tim Blaney, Snoqualmie, Wash.

"Anything that this word describes in popular over-usage is rarely ever 'epic' in the traditional sense of being heroic, majestic, or just plain awe-inspiring." — Mel F., Dallas, Tex.

"Standards for using 'epic' are so low, even 'awesome' is embarrassed." — Mike of Kettering, Ohio.

"I'm sure that when the history books are written or updated and stories have been passed through the generations, the epic powder on the slopes during your last ski trip or your participation in last night's epic flash mob will probably not be included. This may be the root of this epic problem, but it seems as if during the past two years, any idea that was not successful was considered an 'epic-fail.' This includes the PowerPoint presentation you tried to give during this morning's meeting, but couldn't because of technical problems. Also, the ice storm of 'epic proportions' that is blanketing the east coast this winter sure looks a lot like the storm that happened last winter." — DV, Seattle, Wash.

FAIL — One nominator says, "what originally may have been a term for a stockbroker's default is now abused by today's youth as virtually any kind of 'failure.' Whether it is someone tripping, a car accident, a costumed character scaring the living daylights out a kid, or just a poor choice in fashion, these people drive me crazy thinking that anything that is a mistake is a 'fail.' They fail proper language!"

"Fail is not a noun. It is not an adjective. It is a verb. If this word is not banned, then this entire word banishment system is full of FAIL. (Now doesn't that just sound silly?)" — Daniel of Carrollton, Georgia.

"When went up, it was a funny way to view videos of unfortunate people in unfortunate situations. The word fail is now used by people, very often just to tease others, when they 'FAIL.' Any time you screw up in life -- a trip up the stairs, a bump into a wall, or a Freudian slip, you get that word thrown in your face." — Tyler Lynch, Washington, Iowa.

"Mis-used. Over-used. Used with complete disregard to the 'epic' weight of the word. Silence obnoxious reality TV personalities and sullen, anti-establishment teenagers everywhere by banishing this word." — Natalie of Burlington, Ont.

"It has taken over blogs, photo captions, 'status' comments. Anytime someone does something less than perfect, we have to read 'FAIL!' The word has failed us all." — Aaron Yunker, Ishpeming, Mich.

WOW FACTOR — "This buzzword is served up with a heaping of cliché factor and a side order of irritation. But the lemmings from cable-TV cooking, whatever design and fashion shows keep dishing it out. I miss the old days when 'factor' was only on the math-and-science menu." — Dan Muldoon, Omaha, Neb.

"Done-to-death phrase to point out something with a somewhat significantly appealing appearance." — Ann Pepper, Knoxville, Tenn.

A-HA MOMENT — "All this means is a point at which you understand something or something becomes clearer. Why can't you just say that?" — Audrey Mayo, Killeen, Tex.

BACK STORY — "This should be on the list of words that don't need to exist because a perfectly good word has been used for years. In this case, the word is 'history,' or, for those who must be weaned, 'story.'" Jeff Williams, Sherwood, Ariz.

BFF — "These chicks call each other BFF (Best Friends Forever) and it lasts about 10 minutes. Now there's BFFA (Best Friends For Awhile), which makes more sense." — Clare Rabe Forgach, Ft. Collins, Colo.

MAN UP — "A stupid phrase when directed at men. Even more stupid when directed at a woman, as in 'Alexis, you need to man up and join that Pilates class!'" — Sherry Edwards, Clarkston, Mich.

"Another case of 'verbing' a noun and ending with a preposition that goes nowhere. Not only that, the phrase is insulting, especially when voiced by a female, who'd never think to say, 'Woman up!'" — Aunt Shecky, East Greenbush, NY.

"Can a woman 'man-up,' or would she be expected to 'woman-up?'" — Jay Leslie, Portland, Maine.

"Not just overused (a 2010 top word according to the Global Language Monitor) but bullying and sexist." — Christopher K. Philippo, Glenmont, NY.

"We had to put up with 'lawyer up.' Now 'man up,' too? A chest-thumping cultural regression fit for frat boys stacking beer glasses." — Craig Chalquist Ph.D., Walnut Creek, Calif.

REFUDIATE — "Adding this word to the English language simply because a part-time politician lacks a spell checker on her cell phone is an action that needs to be repudiated." Dale Humphreys, Muskegon, Mich.

Kuahmel Allah of Los Angeles, Calif. wants to banish what he called 'Sarah Palin-isms': "Let's 'refudiate' them on the double!"

MAMA GRIZZLIES — "Unless you are referring to a scientific study of Ursus arctos horribilis , this analogy of right-wing female politicians should rest in peace." — Mark Carlson, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

THE AMERICAN PEOPLE — "These politicians in Congress say 'the American People' as part of what seems like every statement they make! I see that others have noticed it, too, as various websites abound, including an entry on Wikipedia." — Paul M. Girouard, St. Louis, Mo.

"No one in Washington can pontificate for more than two sentences without using it. Beyond overuse, these people imply that 'the American people' want/expect/demand all the same things. They don't." — Dick Hilker, Loveland, Colo.

"Aren't all Americans people? Every political speech refers to the 'American' people as if simply saying 'Americans' (or 'people') is not enough." — Deb Faust, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

I'M JUST SAYIN' — "'A phrase used to diffuse any ill feelings caused by a preceded remark,' according to the Urban Dictionary. Do we really need a qualifier at the end of every sentence? People feel uncomfortable with a comment that was made and then 'just sayin'' comes rolling off the tongue? It really doesn't change what was said, I'm just sayin'." — Becky of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

"I'm just sayin'...'I'm not sayin'''…Actually, you ARE saying…A watered-down version of what I just said or intended to say... SAY what you are saying. DON'T SAY what you aren't saying." — Julio Appling, Vancouver, Wash.

"Obviously you are saying it… you just said it!" — Catherine Wilson, Granger, Ind.

"And we would never have known if you hadn't told us." — Bob Forrest, Tempe, Ariz.

"When a 24-hour news network had the misguided notion to brand this phrase as a commentary segment called, 'Just sayin', I thought I was going to wretch." — Casey Conroy, Pleasant Hill, Calif.

FACEBOOK / GOOGLE as verbs — "Facebook is a great, addicting website. Google is a great search engine. However, their use as verbs causes some deep problems. As bad as they are, the trend can only get worse, i.e. 'I'm going to Twitter a few people, then Yahoo the movie listings and maybe Amazon a book or two." — Jordan of Waterloo, Ont.

LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST — "It's an absurdity followed by a redundancy. First, things are full or they're not; there is no fullest. Second, 'live life' is redundant. Finally, the expression is nauseatingly overused. What's wrong with enjoying life fully or completely? The phrase makes me gag. I'm surprised it hasn't appeared on the list before." — Sylvia Hall, Williamsport, Penn.
Lists for previous years are available on Lake Superior's site.

We'd complete the list above by adding a couple more obnoxious phrases that we'd like to see banished for misuse and general uselessness:
YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US — Another one of those annoying, meaningless filler phrases that companies include in their automated phone greetings, which only delays the amount of time it takes to reach a living, breathing person. If customer feedback is genuinely important to a company, the company's customer support team should show it rather than say it. Actions speak louder than words.

PARTIAL ZERO EMISSIONS VEHICLE — Seen on the back of some cars, notably Subarus, next to a symbol of a leaf. Refers to a category of vehicles defined by authorities in California, which was created when the California Air Resources Board struck a deal with automakers to postpone the date when production of zero emission vehicles would become mandatory. Zero, however, means nil. Zip. Zilch. Nada. There is no such thing as partial zero; nothing can't be something. Whoever came up with this ridiculous term needs a math lesson.
This year's list from LSSU is remarkably strong. "Wow factor" is unquestionably my favorite inclusion. Like Dan and Ann, I've become rather tired of hearing this trite phrase... on television, in marketing materials, and even in conversation.

I am also glad to see not one, but two "Palinisms" make the list. I nominated "refudiate" myself, and would have tacked it on to my own mini-list above if it hadn't made it onto LSSU's. Thankfully, it did, and so did "mama grizzlies". (By the way, two other Palinisms — "maverick" and "first dude" — were banished in 2009.)

Happy New Year 2011!


Blogger john said...

The word that need to go the most is Like, so many times i hear kids use that word in a sentence every 5 words and it sounds like the only thing in common in the sentence is the word like. and you can't make heads or tails of just what they are talking about.

January 1, 2011 6:56 PM  
Blogger Judy Kahn said...

How could you POSSIBLY write this potent article and not include the word "AWESOME"??? What an awesome mistake you have made, and it is thoroughly awesome that you have bothered to pontificate on this awesome subject.

January 2, 2011 5:16 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

Way overdue, "global warming".

January 2, 2011 5:54 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

in this report, Brian said '"THESE ONES''. It's gramatically incorrect, I hear it daily over and over again. It drives me nuts! Ted from Maine

January 2, 2011 5:58 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"Incentivize" has got to go! Why bludgeon a perfectly good word like "incent" to make it sound like an Ivy League verb?

January 2, 2011 11:48 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

How about the use of "myself" in place of "I" or "me"? Ugh. "Please send a meeting request to myself" or "You can contact myself." Huh?

January 5, 2011 9:18 AM  

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