Another list of meaningless words thrown ‘under the bus’

From Luther’s
Dorr Step

What word or words would you like to eliminate from the English language?

If you’re reading this column there must be at least one, or maybe two or three.

Back in 1976 the public relations director at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., published a list of banished words, just for the heck of it.

He died a few years later but the school has kept publishing a list each year, inviting nominations for words that are mis-used, over-used, and/or come under the heading of general uselessness.

The newest list came out a few days ago and the word that received the most nominations, including those from overseas, was “amazing.”

I’m amazed that the word didn’t make the list sooner.

A guy from British Columbia wrote: “The word which once aptly described the process of birth is now used to describe such trivial things as toast, or the color of a shirt.”

Sarah Howley from Kalamazoo, Mich.: “Anderson Cooper used it three times recently in the opening 45 seconds of his program … I don’t even like “Amazing Grace” anymore.”

And Gitel Hasselberg from Israel wrote: “People use amazing for anything that is nice or heartwarming, in other words, for things that are not amazing.”

The other words making the list this year are shared sacrifice, occupy (as in Wall Street), blowback, man cave, the new normal, pet parent, win the future, trickeration, ginormous, and, thank you in advance.

“Ginormous” really gets me. And it really bugged a guy from Sanford, Fla., who wrote: “No need to make a gigantic [idiot] out of yourself trying to find an enormous word for big.”

The list of words that have been “banished” by Lake Superior State in Sault Ste. Marie (pronunciation is soo saint muh-REE, by the way) since 1977 offers a great look at how our language has been abused.

There are so many abuses that it’s hard to find a starting point.

Alphabetically, how about “actioning (banned in 2000),” or “actual facts (1999)” or “all-time record” (1982)?  If it’s a record, it’s for all time, right?

“At the end of the day” drives me crazy and that was banned in 1999. Another horrible bunch of words, “at this point in time,” was banned in 1976.

“Bare naked” made the list in 1985 and it should have. If you’re bare, you’re naked.

“Been there, done that” made the list in 1996 and in 2006, thank God, “breaking news” was banned.

In 2004 “capture alive” made the list. Can you capture someone who is dead?

“Carbon footprint” was picked in 2009. I intensely dislike that one.

How about “close proximity” (1990), or completely surround” (same year)? If you surround someone, isn’t it complete?

“Conferencing” made the list in 1999. Who was sitting around doing nothing when they started that?

How about “dude” (not as in dude ranch)? That went out 11 years ago but I still had a second-grader come up to me on the playground and say, “Dude, can you tie my shoelaces?”

“E-anything” (2000), ekspecially (1998) and “exact same” (1981 and 1990) were all banished.

Using “Facebook” and “Google” as verbs made the list last year, and “final destination” made it in 1990.

And that reminds me of our beloved former Minnesota Twins play-by-play man, John Gordon. In his post-game show he would always say, “The final score was …”

John, if the game’s over, the score is final. I kept wanting to call and tell him to give us an interim score.

How about “gifting” (1994)?

“Have a good one” was deemed fit to banish in 2001 but you hear it more and more, it seems.

In 1988 they banned using “heighth” for height, and in 1991 “the honest truth” was banned. So was “IRA account” in 1987. See, if the A stands for Account in Individual Retirement Account, you don’t need account on the end.

“Incentivise (1982) is horrible, as is “irregardless” (1979 and 1988). Apparently nobody listened the first time.

“LOL” bit the dust in 2004 but you’d never know it in this world of social media.

How about these? “Negative growth” (2001), “no parking at any time” (1995) and “not so much” (2009). The first two are impossible and the third one just sounds goofy.

Then there’s “preventative maintenance” (1987). The word is really “preventive.”

They banned “relaty” in 1988, saying it was used in place of “reality.” But I’ve heard it used to describe a company where real estate is sold.

“Same difference” made the list in 1987 and “senseless murder” made it 1984. I guess some murders make sense.

“Sexting” (2010), “stupid (bad) mistake”  (1994) and “sworn affidavit” (2002) are on the all-time list of more than 1,000 words. One of our favorite sports columnists likes to say “bad mistake,” as if there are good ones.

“Too big to fail” made the list in 2010 when the U.S. bailed out banks and car manufacturers. “Tweet” (2010) is horrible, as is “under the bus” (2008).

Then there’s “tuna fish” (1987) and “we’re pregnant” (2007). Do you like “you go girl” (1997)?

Man, oh man, the list goes on and on. But the editor probably wants me to end this soon. So I will.

Using “your” for “you’re” (1988) drives me crazy, as does “went missing” (2007) by radio and TV  broadcasters.

How about someone saying that something “speaks to” something (1989)? People speak, not actions.

And finally, “giving 110 percent” (1998)? People, you can’t give more than 100 percent.

I guess some of those words were just the new normal.

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