January 05, 2007

Word-B-Gone

Lake Superior State University has released its annual list of "Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness." The university takes nominations through its Web site, selects the short list in December, and publishes the final outcome on New Year's Day.

These are the 16 terms marked for banishment this year:

  • Gitmo: Meh. It's not half the mouthful that "Guantánamo Bay Naval Base" is (and doesn't have the annoying accent).
  • Combined celebrity names: Like "TomKat." The real problem, of course, is that we're inundated regularly with vapid celebrity gossip masquerading as "news."
  • Awesome: Not as in "inspiring awe," but "cool" or "nifty." Unfortunately for the folks at LSSU, slang that's been around for 20+ years has pretty decent staying power.
  • Gone missing: Yeah, this is a perennial favourite with the language mavens - apparently a close relative of "near miss."
  • Pwn or pwned: Banish it? I don't even know how to pronounce it. "Puh-owned"?
  • Now playing in theatres: As distinct from "Now available on DVD and Blu-Ray" or "Exclusively on pay-per-view." I don't see the problem.
  • We're pregnant: Yeah, if nothing else, it's cutesy.
  • Undocumented alien: For people who don't want to admit that illegal aliens have snuck into the country without the permission of the government. Orwell would be proud.
  • Armed robbery/drug deal gone bad: Yes, as opposed to one that was carried out successfully, without shots fired, hostages, or collateral damage. What's the problem?
  • Truthiness: Incidentally, there's still more written about truthiness on Wikipedia than Lutheranism, which tells you something about the general worth of that resource.
  • Ask your doctor: Yeah, I've often been persuaded by television advertising to ask my doctor if I need prescriptions to pharmaceuticals designed for diseases I don't have.
  • Chipotle: Uh . . . and what are we supposed to call something chipotle-flavoured? Maple syrup, vanilla ice cream, chocolate milkshake, chipotle sauce. I suspect some people would rather have the flavour banished, not the word. (I love chipotles myself, but then I've been eating them since before they were trendy.)
  • i-Anything: iAgree.
  • Search: One comment says that it has been "replaced by'google.'" Only half true. I don't "google" my Word files.
  • Healthy food: Specifically, as used to describe the nutritional qualities of foods. Come on: who actually says "healthful"?
  • Boasts: As in "master bedroom boasts his-and-her fireplaces"; whereas, as the commenter adds, "kitchen laments pathetic placement of electrical outlets." Well of course not, that wouldn't be good advertising.

Just for your own edification, check out the inaugural list from 1976. See too many words on there that have been permanently banished from the English languages? No, me neither. Incidentally, I vaguely recall Charles MacKay's immensely entertaining 1841 history of popular hysteria, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, noting several slang terms he hoped would pass out of popular usage that are still commonly used a century and a half later. So bad language predictions aren't just a recent thing. They're a way of life.

(H/T: Rebecca Writes. Cindy caught it too.)