Monday, January 14, 2013

Watch Your Language!

Thought for the day:  Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.  [Lily Tomlin]

Book-burning is abhorrent, but aren't there some overused words and phrases you'd like to see blown to smithereens?  Like the inexplicable trend these days of taking perfectly good nouns, slapping an -ize or -ate on their behinds, and then using them as verbs: We need to strategize fast, because we're about to destinate. 

I mean, reeeeally? That's like putting a saddle on my cat and trying to enter her in the Kentucky Derby.

Tell me, what pet words and phrases did you and your friends latch onto as teenagers? With me, everything was either gross, neat, or cool, and my friends and I  came up with scathingly brilliant ideas. Oh, and how about this one? Tough toenails... you grew 'em, you chew 'em! Or Gotta make like a tree and leave. And just a couple more I'm real proud to claim: That's enough to gag a maggot, and Gag me with a spoon.

But, to be fair, teenagers aren't the only ones who adopt pet words and then kill them through overuse, are they? Remember the phase a couple decades ago when it seemed like everybody called absolutely everything awesome? We knew a gal who used to say the word absurd so much, it was completely... absurd. My fifth year French teacher salted her lessons with the phrase c'est a dire, but I'm telling ya, she didn't sprinkle; she pulled the top off the shaker and dumped the whole thing. I have it on (ahem) good authority that  she once said it a whopping 138 times in the course of a 50-minute session.

Well, here's the thing... did you know there's such a thing as an annual Banished Word List?








 Ooooh, I'm telling you, it's enough to give an English teacher goosebumps.











Yep, in his efforts to promote Lake Superior University, fun-loving PR Director Bill Rabe came up with some scathingly brilliant ideas, including a tongue-in-cheek list of banished words. Every year since he released the first list to the media on January 1, 1976, hundreds of nominations have poured in from all over the world, helping to keep this tradition alive.

So. Wanta hear what made the list this year?

  • fiscal cliff
  • kick the can down the road
  • double down
  • job creators/creation
  • passion/passionate
  • YOLO  (You only live once)
  • spoiler alert
  • bucket list
  • trending
  • superfood
  • boneless wings
  • guru
(Um, I ask you, what in the world is wrong with passion?) Anyhow, so tell me, what words or phrases would YOU like to see drop kicked to the moon? For me, it's any way, shape, or form. How about you?

Go ahead... I'm all ears.

To give you an idea of some past picks:
  • at this point in time (1976)
  • by and large (1987)
  • close proximity (1990)
  • in my humble opinion (1992)
  • orientate (1988)
  • peacekeeping force (1996)
  • phone tag (1997)
  • refudiate (2011)
  • same difference (1987)
  • truthiness (2007)
                                                   
If you're interested, here's where you can see the full alphabetized list of banned words, as well as a place to suggest words that peg your annoy-o-meter.
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Language has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone. [Paul Tillich]

If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur.  [Gary Larson]

Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.  [George Orwell]

I think it would be cool if you were writing a ransom note on your computer, if the paper clip popped up and said, 'Looks like you're writing a ransom note. Need help? You should use more forceful language, you'll get more money.'   [Demetri Martin]

Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands, and goes to work. [Carl Sandburg]

Language is wine upon the lips.  [Virginia Woolf]
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                                      Hmmm, I believe I'll have a glass of red ... language.

                                      Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.













58 comments:

  1. Without a doubt, the word that irks me the most is "awesome". It is continually and mercilessly used by everyone in every possible context. The word should be banned and anyone who uses it should be flogged.

    Another catch phrase that has suddenly popped up everywhere in the news media is "went missing". I'd never heard of it before and now it's seemingly everywhere.
    "He went missing". "She went missing". "The dog went missing". "The child has gone missing."
    I don't know if it's correct grammar but it annoys the hell out of me.

    When I was a kid in Southern Califoria, the popular teen phrase was "bitchin'"
    "Wow, that's so bitchin". "She looks so bitchin".
    I thought it was vulgar back then and I still think it's vulgar now.

    Don't you just hate people who leave annoyingly long comments?

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    1. I don't hear the word "awesome" used nearly as much as it used to be, but maybe that's a geographical thing. At any rate, its overuse strips the word of all meaning. "Gone missing" is a good one. I don't know where that one came from, but it's past time for it to go back. As for people who leave wonderful comments like yours... what can I say? Awesome. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)

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  2. It is what it is, now having said that I hate the constant use of "like" from a language perspective tha is.

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    1. "Like" is another good one. It's right up there (down there?) with the use of the word "went" in place of "said." (Like, she went, "Gimme a break.")

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  3. I concur with all the words and phrases listed for disposal, but was reminded of a regional expression I haven't heard for 50 years and wouldn't mind tracking down. Legend was, there was a boy at another school who delighted in tall tales. His last name was Barkas. The customary response to big ones told in the entire central valley finally became "Sure Barkas!" Friends told me of relatives 50-100 miles away who were using the phrase. Great post and thanks for stirring that fun memory, Susan.

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    1. Wow, that guy must've caused an awful lot of eyebrows to raise in disbelief to become that much of a legend. (Maybe he's a politician now...)

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  4. I agree with "bucket list." joeh is right about "like," and I agree with Jon about "went missing." Went missing seems to suggest that the person purposely walked away and disappeared. "Orientate" drive me crazy. It's "orient." I don't like "impact" and "transition" used as verbs. I never liked "awesome," and I think it's been replaced with "epic." When I was a teenager, I said "gross" frequently. My parents grossed me out. A lot of kids said "fer sure" constantly. When I debated, I don't know why but we always said over and over "in today's debate, we will . . . ," and "in today's debate, we have proven . . . . " Of course it was today and it was a debate. Did we think the judge would confuse that day's debate with a concert he'd heard last Tuesday? Interesting question. You probably knew I would have a lot to say, being the fussy word person I am. In fact, I could "continue on," which is redundant.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. You showed remarkable restraint, Janie dear. I knew you'd have a lot to say about this one, and you didn't disappoint.

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  5. lol, I still use awesome and cool... and lol... Hmm, I need new words.

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    1. I dunno. Some words are like old slippers. The longer we use them, the more comfortable they feel. I figure I'll still be using "cool" when I'm in my nineties.

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  6. Ha Ha! I haven't heard "scathingly brilliant" since Hayley Mills said it in the movie The Trouble With Angels. Or maybe it was Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows. Could have been both. Hated it then, hate it now. Loved the movies though.
    I think "awesome" has been much overused and should be replaced with "most excellent". I resolve to stop using awesome immediately.
    What I hate the most is "you didn't hear it from me" when clearly I AM hearing it from you.

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    1. Good memory... that's where we got the expression. Can't remember for sure which movie Mills used it in, but we borrowed it from her and used it quite liberally. (And said it with an English accent!)

      "You didn't hear it from me..." HA! Kinda like any sentence that starts with, "Not to be ____________..."(fill in the blank: judgmental, nosy, mean, whatever) If it starts out with "Not to be", the speaker most definitely IS being whatever follows that phrase.

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  7. I'm with River, above. I thought "scathingly brilliant" was a Hayley Mills-ism!

    I am afraid I am one of the "awesome" offenders, and I have no intentions of giving it up. Sorry.

    I did see the Banished Words list when it was first published. It was awesome. :D

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    1. Another one with a good memory. Yep, guilty as charged. We adopted the phrase from her movie.

      I tend to speak in superlatives, so I'm sure "awesome" still sprinkles my conversations, too. If anybody has a problem with it, (s)he can make like a tree and leave.

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  8. This is a post that makes people aware of their language. Mine is a mess, I know. I use a lot of archaic cliches and I still use the word "neat" when I approve of something. During the war, for a hot chick, the phrase was Hubba Hubba. I just made up one yesterday.... for the word change... I've been through more change than a stripper doing a 2-bit performance on skidrow.
    "Don't throw me under the bus" for that one, because "my plate is full."

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    1. I saw that stripper on skid row comment from you the other day, and it really cracked me up. Changing our vocabulary and expressions is good, but there's something to be said for the old standards, too, because after a while, they become like part of your personality. I knew a delightful fellow who used to say, "Hi-de-ho!" as a greeting on ham radio. (Didn't Cab Calloway say that?) At any rate, the expression may have been outdated, and nobody else was using it, but it became like his signature. Oh, and I still say "neat", too.

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    2. Yes, Cab Calloway. I remember Minnie the Moocher. I have a lot of songs from the swing era and that is on one of the CD's. A few years ago my jazz class wanted to do a show around WW2 songs and I got the music and started the choreography but the class fell apart as one gal broke her leg, one had a bike accident and 2 had close deaths in their family. Then I moved to Bozeman and we never got to do it. That music is so danceable. Neat, huh?

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  9. I haven't checked the list yet, but here's some that drive me crazy(er).....dude, up-in-here, Sooo (why are people starting all their sentences with "sooo"??),"seriously/really?", and how about those who undulate their sentences like their singing a song or spouting poetry? The words go up and down, up and down. Makes me want to dope-slap them! (wait...is "dope-slap" on the list?!) And, of course, there are those who still talk "valley girl". I'm talking women in their 30's and 40's. Gross!

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    1. I never heard the expression dope-slap before, but I definitely like it! You've come up with some goodies. Betcha you're not a fan of "to make a long story short", either.

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  10. For me it's the overuse of the acronym LOL. I have friends who use it in almost every single text or every sentence in an email. LOL :)

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    1. Good one. That acronym has been used so much, it isn't funny.

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  11. Words and phrases come and go. Remember when, decades ago, we were all using lines from Get Smart. "Sorry about that, Chief" and "Would you believe" were on everyone's lips back in the late 60's.

    What annoys me today is the over use of the word, "amazing". It is used to describe the most mundane things and is often used twice in a sentence.. The Grand Canyon is amazing, someone's dress is not.

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    1. Oh, yeah! A string of silly "Would you believe..." scenarios always cracked me up. (Um, still does!)

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  12. My overused word has always been "actually". It used to be groovy, which I can still use on occasion. Monster's word is "seriously" which seriously drives me nuts. Probably as much as my actually drives her.

    And then there is "Dude". another of my favorites, which can be used from anything to anger to happiness.

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    1. Our 4-year-old grandson has been using the word "actually" lately, and it sounds so cute coming out of him, I just wanta squeeze him. Good to hear from ya... dudette.

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  13. I like 'same difference.' And when I read your 'scathingly brilliant ideas' I thought, 'The Trouble With Angels!' Did you watch that Hayley Mills film? (Did I spell her name right?)

    Anyway, let's see, phrases that should be drop-kicked to the moon? How about , 'Sorry I haven't been able to get to [X,] I've just been really busy, lately.'

    Ugh. UGH! I hate those words. 'Really busy lately' really only means one thing: 'X is not and never will be my priority.'

    Whenever I hear, 'really busy lately,' I always tell myself, this person is never going to get to X, accept it and move on.

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    1. Yes, I probably saw every Hayley Mills movie, and my friends and I unabashedly lifted the "scathingly brilliant" expression from her. (She never complained, either.)

      That expression you want to drop-kick sounds like people trying to weasel out of something they don't wanta do. It's cowardly and dishonest. No wonder you don't like it!

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  14. At the end of the day! I hate that. Do they mean bedtime? No! I even hear politicians and interviewers using it. They should know better!

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    1. Good one! And you're right: that's verrrry annoying.

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  15. Great post. Love all the quotes. Living as close as I do to D.C., Orwell's really strikes a chord. ;)

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    1. That one made me smile, too. There's plenty of "pure wind" in D.C. The quote about the ransom note cracked me up, too.

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  16. I agree with Rosalind, I hate "at the end of the day."
    Whenever anyone uses that phrase, I always immediately answer with, "is night-time," though admittedly in my head.

    My own grammar misdemeanor, is adding 'age' at the end of words, such as "my 'boobage' hurts". I cringe every time I use it but I just can't seem to stop myself.

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    1. Your grammar "misdemeanor" isn't a misdemeanor at all! It's uniquely YOU, and I, for one, love it!

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  17. I can tell which words I over use (often without realizing I've even said them) because my kids repeat them. The first time my son said "That's awesome" I was very surprised. Now I try to watch my language more.

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    1. Uh-oh. Once the kids start echoing your words, you've reeeeally gotta be careful. They have a unique way of picking up the words you least want them to repeat.

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  18. I'm with joeh on retiring the "It is what it is" phrase. But...what am I going to use instead of bucket list? I like "bucket list." Hrrrmmmpppfff.

    I also think we should do away with the "-ish" at the end of a word to indicate "approximately." As in, "Let's meet for lunch at 1:00-ish."

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    1. I say, if ya wanta use "bucket list", USE it! No other expression quite conveys the same meaning. I agree with you about the "ish" stuff, too. It's annoying-ish.

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  19. what an interesting post!! LOL ..it's like we use it for everything..

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    1. Glad ya liked it. You probably know better than just about anybody what kinds of slang kids are using these days. You kinda have a front row seat.

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  20. Oh dear, you're talking to an Englishman here. Someone even used the words 'American English' to me recently. Well let me tell everyone NOW, that there is only English and English. I'm afraid we tend to think Americans are rather odd when we hear words like 'burglarize', rather than 'burgle'. Do oddities such as 'gotten' and 'offentimes' actually appear in American dictionaries?

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    1. There may be only one English, but you have to admit, there's also a certain Americanization of it, too. (Or "bastardization", as some Brits might say.) And yes, "gotten" is in our dictionary, as well as "oftentimes", and "ofttimes". (But unlike the English, a "boot" is something we put on our feet, and a "bonnet" is something we put on our head!)

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  21. Phone tag was phased out 15 years ago? Wow! Do I feel stupid or what. I'd better double down on something else that's trending.

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    1. HA! I know what ya mean. But really, what OTHER term even comes close to describing "phone tag" but ... "phone tag"?

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  22. truthiness?

    Sorry, that word is far to useful in this day and age. Facts have become elastic and needs some term to help disern the level of stretch someone has applied to the odd, old fashioned concept called the truth.

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    1. The word is also somewhat useful when dealing with children. I mean, really, they don't lie... not exactly... they just stretch the truth out of shape.

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  23. Hi Susan ... WOTEVVVVVER ... and I had to hear it in a movie last week ... grates ...

    I hate words that 'waste time' ...

    so I won't say cheers ... just I'm off bye!- Hilary

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    1. You're right; a stretched out "whatever" is annoying, but your "cheers" doesn't waste time. It just portrays your bubbly personality. Ta-ta!

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  24. The ones that works my nerves the most are "having said that" and "think outside the box." Also have to agree with bucket list. A nice idea that is now so overused!

    I love this kind of stuff. Fun post!

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    1. You picked a couple more good (bad?) ones. Thanks.

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  25. I say awesome way to much. But more awesome than awesome are two phrases that I drive my daughter crazy with. When we're shopping together I'll say, "Ready Freddie?" (Her name is not Freddie.) Secondly I say, "Well I can't see anything here that I can't live without."

    She does not think I'm "awesome" when I overuse those two sentences.

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    1. HA! I've been known to say, "Ready, Freddy?" a time or two, too. Ditto the second phrase you mentioned. HUH! You mean we aren't (gasp!) originals?

      Oh, and pbbbbt! I'm sure you're plenty awesome.

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  26. I'm adding this to my list of fav quotes.

    Language has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone. [Paul Tillich]

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  27. I wish I could write the queen's English better than wot I can already
    I speak it fairly well...
    The first Tomlinson quote is a cracker

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    1. Tomlinson's quote is a cracker because SHE is. And no doubt, you speak swimmingly, old bean.

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  28. I detest "awesome" everytime I hear it, it is just awful.

    Used to use "like" a lot, but don't like to use it anymore.

    I could vomit if I watch tv news and hear: "Kick can down road or even playing surface" etc.

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    1. You'd think newscasters would do a better job of using more precise language, wouldn't you? Then again, we expect them to actually report on the news, too, rather than color it with their personal opinions.

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