Last night, as I began to think about what I’d write here today, the last day of 2011, I heard a news report on TV about “banned words.” Banned? Why banned? Eeeeerrrrrgh! Not in America, I hope. Although we do have our struggles with extreme right wing conservatives, especially of the religious right, who want to ban certain books they have not read. The news report had ended by the time I made it to the television.
No problem! I just looked it up on the internet today. We can all rest easy, folks! The banned words referred to the annual list that those playful people at Lake Superior State University publish each year at this time. The words in this Michigan college’s list come from nominations by people all over the world to ban a word or phrase from “the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.” Awesome. Here’s the list followed by my comments:
- Amazing — I am in total agreement. This word received the most nominations this year. I’m surprised that “awesome” wasn’t a close second.
- Baby Bump – use of the word “pregnant” is precise and clear. Strive for clarity! This sounds like the baby is hurt.
- Shared Sacrifice – not so much the words that need to be banned but the idea behind them, i.e. propose to share in sacrifice in order not to have to sacrifice. Politicians and corporate senior management need to stop saying this!
- Occupy – I think this one is definitely due to overuse. Apparently people have been dropping it in front of all sorts of nouns including named holidays.
- Blowback – I’ve understood this term to actually refer to fire and as something fire fighters need to watch for as they enter a burning building. I guess I was wrong. In this reference, it means “reaction,” a perfectly good, clear and precise word to use instead.
- Man Cave — apparently the other 49% of the American population feels this is a discriminatory term. The “cave” implication is truly not nice and should be replaced with “den.”
- The New Normal – this term assumes that normal has been defined and then changed to something new. I’m pleased to say “normal” has not been defined adequately in a general way, so to call something “the new normal” is highly misleading and probably used by corporate senior management to deflect comment about a change.
- Pet Parent — I’d not heard this term before and had to read the description. It’s another term for pet owner. Now, what I have heard before is a human being referred to as the pet of his or her pet. Anyway, “parent” has a reproductive meaning most of the time and really is wrong usage here no matter how cute.
- Win the Future – I have a feeling we will not hear the end of this particular phrase, a favorite of politicians who think in sound bytes. A clearer, more precise phrase might be “win the office I’m running for.”
- Trickeration – what? I’ve never heard this term before. After reading the description, my reaction is, “Ah, football analysts use this term. No wonder I hadn’t heard it before.” This word is supposed to refer to a trick play. So what’s wrong with “trick play”?
- Ginormous – the combination of “gigantic” and “enormous,” either word being adequate to describe something really big. But I kinda like this word because it combines two words and reminds me of how kids talk.
- Thank you in advance – Just as you would not pay someone the full amount in advance, do not thank someone in advance. This is the only phrase on this list that truly makes my skin crawl.
Whether or not these words and phrases now disappear from use, perhaps Lake Superior State University has prodded us into thinking about language and how we use words. English is a living language and evolves with use. I’m relieved that the list truly was not a serious attempt at censorship….