We’ve been waiting for some old words and phrases to be chucked out. Looks like Michigan’s Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie has picked up the mop and the bucket for us – and cleaned up on a lot of publicity along the way, too.
Every year the way-up-north university compiles a “List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.” Its minions gather nominations from the U.S., Canada, and beyond – by fax, by email, on its website, and this year mostly via its Facebook page. The contest is its 38th year – it’s probably older than the many Book Haven readers. The organizers hope to jeer these terms out of existence.
We don’t agree with all the targets: “Fiscal cliff” doesn’t worry us, although it apparently grated on many of the judges – we figure that it will have worn out its welcome by February, if not sooner.
But here’s the one that had our ears pinned back like a cat – all through the damn election season. “Double down.” Where did it come from? What does it mean? Why was everyone saying it, again and again and again?
Said Allan Ryan of Boston: “This blackjack term is now used as a verb in place of ‘repeat’ or ‘reaffirm’ or ‘reiterate.’ Yet, it adds nothing. It’s not even colorful. Hit me!”
On the NBC website here, you can even vote for your pet irritations, if you cannot keep them to yourself. I could not, and as a result learned that I am in a minority. Only 2.8 percent of the readers found “double down” to be the most obnoxious word or phrase in the last 12 months. At the moment I voted, it tied with “superfood,” a word which doesn’t bother me at all. The clear winner was YOLO (internet talk for “you only live once”). I was barely aware of it (I thought it was a rural county in the California somewhere) – though, come to think of it, if LOL dropped off the face of the earth I wouldn’t cry. It is particularly annoying when used among the young like a verbal tic, repeatedly and in quick succession accentuating thoughts and phrases that are neither witty nor uproarious, giving the impression that the speaker can barely hold back from a hearty laugh at each banality.
But “job creators” struck many of the correspondents as heartless political jargon – “One of the most overplayed buzz terms of the 2012 presidential campaign. Apparently ‘lowering unemployment’ doesn’t have the same impact,” said Dennis Ittner of Torrance, Calif. And “passion,” when used to rev up a mere enthusiasm or interest, bugged the bejeebers out of some: “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. My passion! is simple: Banish this phony-baloney word,” fumed George Alexander of Studio City, Calif.
As for the others … Isn’t “guru” a bit 1970s, anyway – and what’s a “boneless wing”? Never heard of it.
Feel free to add a few of your own in the comments section.
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