Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Banished Words of 2011

Each year, Lake Superior State University publishes a list of words that they believe should be banished from the English language due to their ubiquitousness, poor use, or just plain annoyance.  I have covered this the past two years (2009 and 2010 lists and thoughts), and as always, I confess to being guilty of using some of these terms.  Consider it weakness or a character flaw.  To the highlights lowlights...

'Amazing' - this word used to be a great compliment to receive, but now it has achieved through overuse, an annoying connection with banality.  I suppose it's better than 'awesome' (a word I throw around a lot in speech, but not in writing), but when you hear things like a pair of pants being described as 'amazing', you know it is time to dial it back or eliminate it altogether.

'Shared Sacrifice' - usually on these lists, you will see terms that are used by politicians who in turn got them from whatever focus group recommended them (such as 'Shovel-Ready' from a couple years back and 'Win the Future', also on this year's list).  The public has slowly become dumbed down thanks to the nonsense on television, but they aren't so dumb that they can't see that a particular term or phrase is meant to be some kind of euphemism to help the medicine go down.

'Man Cave' - ironically, in commenting on last year's list, The Doyler commented that this term should have been on the list, and so here it is.  Now, I like the idea of a man cave in principle, although I do think it is time to retire the term since it has lost a lot of it's meaning, as one of the people submitting notes:
Overused by television home design and home buying shows, has trickled down to sitcoms, commercials, and now has to be endured during interactions with real estate people, neighbors and co-workers.
Once it started getting used by professional-types, then that's when the term jumped the shark and needs to be replaced.

'The New Normal' - I can't do justice to this one myself, so I will allow the submission to do it for me...
The phrase is often used to justify bad trends in society and to convince people that they are powerless to slow or to reverse those trends. This serves to reduce participation in the political process and to foster cynicism about the ability of government to improve people's lives. Sometimes the phrase is applied to the erosion of civil liberties. More often, it is used to describe the sorry state of the U.S. economy. Often hosts on TV news channels use the phrase shortly before introducing some self-help guru who gives glib advice to the unemployed and other people having financial difficulties.
Couldn't have put it any better.  It's one big rationalization and part of the attempt to make relativism more palatable, even though in and of itself, it will collapse under its own weight.

'Ginormous' - I use this mostly in an ironic sense, because as many note, it is a bit ridiculous to combine 'gigantic' and 'enormous'.  It is an awkward turn of phrase and just sounds like something a teenager would say (and I would know, given what I do for a living).  Just stick to the tried and true words like big, or consult the large amount of synonyms.

'Thank You In Advance' - guilty of this one periodically.  A better explanation than I can give is...
Usually followed by 'for your cooperation,' this is a condescending and challenging way to say, 'Since I already thanked you, you have to do this.
Well said.  This is mostly used in emails, and when I do use it, it's where I exclusively use it.

If there are any others, please put them in the comment thread and the reasons why they should be banned.

4 comments:

Doyler said...

I'll go with "Swag" or "Swagger" as my new least favorite word.

Joshua Lattanzi said...

It is pretty annoying, but I don't hear many people other than teenage boys use it, so it may not be as widespread, or at least it may be dying out. "Swagger" at least has a real definition. "Swag" just wants to be the new "egads".

Kyle V. said...

I don't know if it's just a NY/NJ thing, but people around here totally abuse 'literally' to the point that I literally want to punch them in the face. Ha ha.

Joshua Lattanzi said...

That's interesting that you mention that, Kyle, because I thought about making the word 'literally' my own addendum to the list. I have the same complaint as you do - that they use 'literally' for, uh, literally anything they want! I bet you probably want to scream and make them look up a frickin' dictionary as to what 'literally' literally means!

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