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So buttons

presser

So around the time I was realizing that Star Trek had a “some kind of” problem, I noticed that practically everyone on NPR who is  asked a question begins their answer with “So…”

Diane Rehm: Okay. But how does that adult get Toxoplasmosis?

Guest: So we know that that’s probably not the case in most cases of schizophrenia…

Robert Siegel: And I’m a lot older than you are. So I want you to tell me your encounter with the “Our Gang” comedies – when and where?

Guest: So I grew up in Los Angeles. And, you know, my parents were Korean immigrants. They worked a lot. And so my sister and I would often watch television at home in the afternoons, and often “Little Rascals” was on…

Can’t they answer the question without it? Why do they need that little word to propel their answer into motion?

So then I realized that I do it too.

But why? And when did I start doing it?  And what was I doing before I did it?

The scholars at Lake Superior State University don’t have the answers, but they do recognize the problem. They’ve put “So” at the top of their 41st Annual List of Banished Words, released today.

“So the word that received the most nominations this year was already banished, but today it is being used differently than it was in 1999, when nominators were saying, ‘I am SO down with this list!'” the list’s editors wrote in their annual announcement.

Among the other words on the list (and a few of the accompanying comments):

Conversation (CNN: Join the conversation: What’s ok to wear on a plane?)
“This word has been increasingly used by talking heads to describe every form of verbal communication known to mankind,” writes Richard Fry, of Marathon, Ont. “It has replaced ‘discussion,’ ‘debate,’ ‘chat,’ ‘discourse,’ ‘argument,’ ‘lecture,’ ‘talk’….”

Stakeholder “A word that has expanded from describing someone who may actually have a stake in a situation or problem, now being over-used in business to describe customers and others.” Adds Gwendolyn Barlow of Portland, Ore.: “Often used with ‘engagement.’”

Price Point “Another example of using two words when one will do.” “It has no ‘point.’  It is just a ‘price,’” commented Guy Michael of Cherry Hill, N.J.

Presser A shortened form of “press release” and “press conference.” To which Constance Kelly of West Bloomfield, Mich, points out: “This word already has a definition: a person or device that removes wrinkles.”

As usual, most of the comments seem unnecessarily fussy and humorless. What bothers me is not that the words have other, older meanings, but they’re used repeatedly and without thinking. And the less people think, the more desolate the public space will be.

What’s worse, that walk it back made the list (“Donald Trump walks back Muslim database comments“)? Or that the word it replaced is back-pedal?

 

 

 

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#banish #these #please

selfie

Selfie is the past year’s word that would bring the greatest good to the greatest number if it were never used again.

The term for extending your phone to arm’s length and snapping your beautiful self is at the top of the 2014 Banished Word List, published each New Year’s Day by the folks at Lake Superior State University.

Following a trend I noted last year, the comments offered by those nominating the words aren’t sufficiently witty to put overused and annoying usages such as   Twittersphere and Obamacare firmly in their proper place. But none of the nominees made me say, “No, I like that word.”

For instance, I was done with twerking right around the time I looked up what it meant. That was probably the day after Miley Cyrus introduced the concept to  much of the nation.

Number 3 on the list is hashtag. I can recall a time when I didn’t know what a hashtag was. I knew what hash is. For a long time that was enough.

Two others, Mister Mom and T-Bone I don’t hear around, except T. Bone Burnett.

Then there are _____ on steroids,

___ageddon and

___pocalypse,

which are now given to every storm that isn’t getting its own name.

There are a couple more, but you get the picture. I kept putting off submitting my own nominations: hunker down and shelter in place,  and never did. Even so, I’d be mighty happy if nobody used them the during the next snowpocalypse or stormageddon.

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Spoiler alert

Trending With Tracy Spoiler alert is one of the entries to the 2013 List of Banished Words, published today by Lake Superior State University. The 12 words and phrases are accompanied by comments by those who nominated them:

“I’m sick of chirpy entertainment commentators constantly informing us of what ‘is trending right now.’ I used to like a good trend until this,” wrote Nancy of Victoria, British Columbia.

“(We’ve) lost sight of the metaphor and started to think it’s a real place, like with the headline, ‘Obama, Boehner meeting on fiscal cliff,'” opined Barry Cochran, of Portland, Oregon.

I’ve made the Banished Word list a New Year tradition for a number of years, but I can’t help feeling it’s losing some of its pizzazz. Certainly the comments seem tired, even cranky. On the term YOLO (You Only Live Once), Daniel of Hickory, North Carolina, groused,  “Just gives people, especially teens, a reason to do stupid things. I find it annoying and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here.”

Well, yeah, all the phrases on the list are annoying. But for the first time, the comments are starting to become annoying, too. In their complaining that certain words and phrases are overused and predictable, the nominators themselves are becoming predictable.

Still. with his comment about Job Creators, Bob Fandrich of Fredericksburg, Virginia, makes a valid point:

“If these guys are capitalists, as claimed, they are focused on reducing expenses and maximizing profit. Jobs are a large part of expenses. So, if anything at all, they minimize employment to maximize profits. Up is down, black is white. Job creators are really employment minimizers.”

Two of my favorites on this year’s list stood outside the election cycle: Passion/Passionate and Guru.

“Diabetes is not just Big Pharma’s business, it’s their passion! This or that actor is passionate! about some issue somewhere. A DC lobbyist is passionate! about passing (or blocking) some proposed law, said George Alexander of Studio City, California, who called it a “phony-baloney word.”

“Unless you’re teaching transcendental meditation, Hinduism or Buddhism, please don’t call yourself a guru just because you think you’re an expert at something, “Mitch Devine of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, practically pleaded. “It’s silly and pretentious.”

I don’t remember which term I nominated this year or what my comment was. (I really should write these things down.) But my nomination for the 2014 list is that the Wise Ones at LSSU weigh the quality of the comments as they choose which words to banish.

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Thank you in advance for leaving a comment

Is the baby bump merely a fashion accessory?Lake Superior State University’s List of Banished Words is out a bit early, so we can all slip into 2012 imagining a world where these overused words and phrases are scarcely spoken:

Amazing.

Baby bump.

Shared sacrifice.

Occupy.

Blowback.

Man cave.

The new normal.

Pet parent.

Win the future.

Trickeration.

Ginormous.

Thank you in advance.

Maybe because of the worlds I inhabit, I’ve never heard of trickeration (from football) and pet parent. And I hadn’t realized how omnipresent amazing has become — “Many nominators mentioned [amazing’s] over-use on television when they sent their entries,” according to the LSSU webpage, “mentioning ‘reality’ TV, Martha Stewart and Anderson Cooper. It seemed to bother people everywhere, as nominations were sent from around the U.S. and Canada and some from overseas, including Israel, England and Scotland.

“Every talk show uses this word at least two times every five minutes. Hair is not ‘amazing.’ Shoes are not ‘amazing,'” Martha Waszak wrote to LSSU.

“The word has been overused to describe things only slightly better than mundane,” wrote Alyce-Mae Alexander. “I blame Martha Stewart because to her, EVERYTHING is amazing! It has lost its ‘wow factor’ and has reached ‘epic’ proportions of use. It’s gone ‘viral,’ I say! ‘I’m just sayin’!’

The outrage has grown to the point where there is now a Facebook page called “Overuse of the word ‘Amazing.’ ”

I was part of an online discussion yesterday with a guy who felt the Banished Word List is the product of an elite professoriate trying to police the speech of regular people. My impression is that nominations to the list are made by regular people, and that far from being attempts to muzzle free speech and free thought, nominations and comments are made in a lighthearted spirit. We all use at least some of these cliches. The List of Banished Words helps us hear ourselves talk, and decide whether there will be blowback, or just a response; whether we want to make another Occupy Wall Street reference, or come up with a new way to be clever; and if something is really, truly, undeniably amazing.

I wrote about last year’s list here. And I offered my own list here in 2009.

And, as they say in Public Radio Land, you’re invited to join the conversation.  (I’ll take my response off the air.)

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Drop these words.

"Standards for using 'epic' are so low, even 'awesome' is embarrassed."

The new list of banished words is out. The list is published every New Year’s Day by Lake Superior State University, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Here are the words and phrases which are deemed so overused as to constitute a threat to intelligent communication:

Viral, Epic, Fail, Wow Factor, A-ha Moment, Back Story, BFF, Man Up, Refudiate, Mama Grizzlies, The American People, I’m Just Sayin’, Facebook /Google (as verbs), Live Life to the Fullest.

The words and phrases are followed by comments of those who nominated them. My favorite followed “Epic”:

“Standards for using ‘epic’ are so low, even ‘awesome’ is embarrassed.” — Mike of Kettering, Ohio.

The Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate, in its blog entry on the banished words list, adds two of its own nominations: “Your call is important to us” and “partial zero emissions vehicle.” I offered my own list here in 2009.

The point of such lists is not to reveal to the world what a brittle. humorless pendant you’ve become, but to remind ourselves of basic notions of uncluttered communications, such as George Orwell set down in “Politics and the English Language” (1946).

Orwell wrote:

[O]ne needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out,  always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Now, to begin work on next year’s list. How about, “I reached out to him”? And, “Going forward.”

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