La la la la I Can’t Hear You: Banished Words of 2008

By Laurel Sutton

February 4, 2009

Recently Lake Superior State University announced its 34th annual list of Banished Words for 2008. (The full title is much more snarky, in an Enlightenment-era way: “List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness” – very Jonathan Swift.)

Along with some obvious candidates like “maverick”, “first dude”, and “bailout”, environmental buzzwords like “green” and “carbon footprint” were at the top of the list of offenders. This is particularly interesting to me, as I just presented a paper to the American Name Society on the ubiquity of “green” branding – and some of the ways in which it’s been co-opted, or abused. (I’ll be posting a video version of that paper as soon as I can get iMovie 08 to act like something other than FAIL.) I definitely agree that “green” was overused in 2008, and we may be seeing a drop, or at least a leveling-off, in the amount of “green” branding in 2009.

Personally, I feel the term “maverick” should only be used when referencing James Garner. And “first dude” should never be uttered by anyone, ever again.

Here for your entertainment are the words, with exegesis, from the Arts and Entertainment category:

ICON or ICONIC – Overused, especially among entertainers and in entertainment news, according to Robyn Yates of Dallas, who says that “every actor, actress and entertainment magazine show overuses this.” One of the most-nominated words of the year. “Everyone and everything cannot be ‘iconic.’ Can’t we switch to ‘legendary’ or ‘famous for’? In our entertainment-driven culture, it seems everyone in show business is ‘iconic’ for some reason or another. “John Flood, Bray, Wicklow, Ireland. “It’s becoming the new ‘awesome’ – overused to the point where everything from a fast-food restaurant chain to celebrities is ‘iconic.'” Jodi Gill, New Berlin, Wisc. “Just because a writer recognizes something does not make it an icon (a visual symbol or representation which inspires worship or veneration) or iconic. It just means that the writer has seen it before.” Brian Murphy, Fairfield, Conn.

GAME CHANGER – “It’s game OVER for this cliché, which gets overused in the news media, political arenas and in business.” Cynthia, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

STAYCATION – “Occurrences of this word are going up with gas prices.’Vacation’ does not mean ‘travel,’ nor does travel always involve vacation. Let’s send this word on a slow boat to nowhere.” Dan Muldoon, Omaha, Neb.

“The cost of petrol forces many families to curtail their summer voyages and a new word has sprung, idiotic and rootless…” Michele Mooney, Los Angeles, Calif.

DESPERATE SEARCH – “Every time the news can’t find something intelligent to report, they start on a ‘desperate search’ for someone, somewhere.” Rick A. Hyatt, Saratoga, Wyo.

NOT SO MUCH – “I wish that the phrase was used not so much,” says Tom Benson of Milwaukee, who notes that it is used widely in news media, especially in sports, i.e. ‘The Gophers have a shot at the playoffs; the Chipmunks, not so much.’ “Casual language usage is acceptable. ‘Not so much?’ Not so much.” David Hollis, Hubbardsville, NY. “Do I like concise writing? Yes. Do I like verbose clichés? Not so much.” David W. Downing, St. Paul, Minn. “A favorite of snarky critics and bloggers.” Jeff Baenen, Minneapolis, Minn.

WINNER OF FIVE NOMINATIONS – “It hasn’t won an Academy Award yet. It has only been NOMINATED!” John Bohenek, Abilene, Tex.

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN – Nominated by Kathleen Brosemer of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., for “general overuse and meaninglessness. When is it not ‘that time of year again?’ From Valentine’s sales to year-end charity letters, invitations to summer picnics and Christmas parties, it’s ‘that time’ of year again. Just get to the point of the solicitation, invitation, and newsletter and cut out six useless and annoying words.”

Do you have a word you want banished for 2009? Please provide an example, and the reasons why it should be banished. No credit will be given if you don’t show your work. To get things started, I hereby nominate “2012“, which is the codeword for “oh no the world’s going to end”, just like it DIDN’T at the turn of the millennium. The Mayan calendar doesn’t end, nothing is going to crash into the earth, there isn’t going to be a rapture, alien or otherwise. So calm down. The world won’t end, unless Sarah Palin is elected President.

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