LSSU Banished Words list, 2008

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Wed Jan 2 20:55:35 UTC 2008

The list is bullshit of course, but you will have
heard of them if you are a hockey fan (I am told).


>---------------------- Information from the mail
>header -----------------------
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       "Baker, John" <JMB at STRADLEY.COM>
>Subject:      Re: LSSU Banished Words list, 2008
>         Once again, we see how effective a list
>like this can be at obtaining publicity.  I
>think I am not alone in having no other
>knowledge of Lake Superior State University.
>         What I find most striking is the
>presence of several specific and useful words on
>this list.  Webinar, waterboarding, surge (when
>used in reference to the 2007 temporary increase
>in U.S. forces in Iraq), and Black Friday are
>all needed terms for which there are no equally
>handy alternatives.
>         Their complaints on "give back,"
>"emotional," and that old stand-by, "decimate,"
>just seem silly, while phrases like "X is the
>new Y" and "under the bus" are fads that will
>run their course in any case.  But I am with
>them on author/authored.
>John Baker
>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society
>[mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
>Benjamin Zimmer
>Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 11:33 AM
>Subject: LSSU Banished Words list, 2008
>***This year, in a gesture of humanitarian
>relief, the committee restores "truthiness,"
>banned on last year's list, to formal use. This
>comes after comedians and late-night hosts were
>thrown under the bus and rendered speechless by
>a nationwide professional writers' strike.
>The silence is deafening.***
>PERFECT STORM - "Overused by the pundits on
>evening TV shows to mean just about any
>coincidence." - Lynn Allen, Warren, Michigan.
>"I read that 'Ontario is a perfect storm,' in
>reference to a report on pollution levels in the
>Great Lakes. Ontario is the name of one of the
>lakes and a Canadian province. This guy would
>have me believe it's a hurricane. It's time for
>'perfect storm' to get rained out." - Bob Smith,
>DeWitt, Michigan.
>"Hands off book titles as cheap descriptors!" -
>David Hollis, Hamilton, New York.
>WEBINAR - A seminar on the web about any number of topics.
>"Ouch! It hurts my brain. It should be crushed
>immediately before it spreads." - Carol, Lams,
>"Yet another non-word trying to worm its way
>into the English language due to the Internet.
>It belongs in the same school of non-thought
>that brought us e-anything and i-anything." -
>Scott Lassiter, Houston, Texas.
>WATERBOARDING - "Let's banish 'waterboarding' to
>the beach, where it belongs with boogie boards
>and surfboards." - Patrick K. Egan, Sault Ste.
>Marie, Michigan
>ORGANIC - Overused and misused to describe not
>only food, but computer products or human
>behavior, and often used when describing
>something as "natural," says Crystal Giordano of
>Brooklyn, New York. Another advertising gimmick
>to make things sound better than they really
>are, according to Rick DeVan of Willoughby,
>Ohio, who said he has heard claims such as "My
>business is organic," and computers having
>"organic software."
>"Things have gone too far when they begin
>marketing T-shirts as organic." - Michelle
>Fitzpatrick, St. Petersburg, Florida.
>"'Organic' is used to describe everything, from shampoo to meat.
>Banishment! Improperly used!" - Susan Clark, Bristol, Maine.
>"The possibility of a food item being inorganic,
>i.e., not being composed of carbon atoms, is
>nil." - John Gomila, New Orleans, Louisiana.
>"You see the word 'organic' written on
>everything from cereal to dog food." - Michael,
>Sacramento, California.
>"I'm tired of health food stores selling
>products that they say are organic. All the food
>we eat is organic!" - Chad Jacobson, Park Falls,
>anything created by a wordsmith - or via
>wordsmithing - that was pleasant to read." -
>Emily Kissane, St. Paul, Minnesota.
>AUTHOR/AUTHORED - "In one of former TV
>commentator Edwin Newman's books, he wonders if
>it would be correct to say that someone
>'paintered' a picture?" - Dorothy Betzweiser,
>Cincinnati, Ohio.
>POST 9/11 - "'Our post-9/11 world,' is used now,
>and probably used more, than AD, BC, or Y2K,
>time references. You'd think the United States
>didn't have jet fighters, nuclear bombs, and
>secret agents, let alone electricity,
>'pre-9/11.'" - Chazz Miner, Midland, Michigan.
>SURGE - "'Surge' has become a reference to a
>military build-up. Give me the old days, when it
>referenced storms and electrical power." -
>Michael F. Raczko, Swanton, Ohio.
>"Do I even have to say it? I can't be the first
>one to nominate it...put me in line. From Iraq
>to Wall Street to the weather forecast - 'surge'
>really ought to recede." - Mike Lara, Colorado.
>"This word came out in the context of increasing
>the number of troops in Iraq. Can be used to
>explain the expansion of many things (I have a
>surge in my waist) and it's use will grow out of
>control...The new Chevy Surge, just experience
>the roominess!" - Eric McMillan, Mentor, Ohio.
>GIVE BACK - "This oleaginous phrase is an emergency submission to the
>2008 list. The notion has arisen that as one's
>life progresses, one accumulates a sort of
>deficit balance with society which must be
>neutralized by charitable works or financial
>outlays. Are one's daily transactions throughout
>life a form of theft?" - Richard Ong, Carthage,
>"Various media have been featuring a large
>number of people who 'just want to give back.'
>Give back to whom? For what?" - Curtis Cooper,
>Hazel Park, Michigan.
>'BLANK' is the new 'BLANK' or 'X' is the new 'Y'
>- In spite of statements to the contrary, 'Cold
>is (NOT) the new hot,' nor is '70 the new 50.'
>The idea behind such comparisons was originally
>good, but we've all watched them spiral out of
>reasonable uses into ludicrous ones and it's now
>time to banish them from use. Or, to phrase it
>another way, 'Originally clever advertising is
>now the new absurdity!'" - Lawrence Mickel,
>Coventry, Connecticut.
>"Believed to have come into use in the 1960s, but it is getting tired.
>The comparisons have become absurd." - Geoff Steinhart, Sault Ste.
>Marie, Michigan.
>"'Orange is the new black.' '50 is the new 30.'
>'Chocolate is the new sex.' 'Sex is the new
>chocolate.' 'Fallacy is the new truth.' -
>Patrick Dillon, East Lansing, Michigan.
>BLACK FRIDAY - "The day after Thanksgiving that
>retailers use to keep themselves out of the
>'red' for the year. (And then followed by
>"Cyber-Monday.") This is counter to the start of
>the Great Depression's use of the term 'Black
>Tuesday,' which signaled the crash of the stock
>market that sent the economy into a tailspin. -
>Carl Marschner, Melvindale, Michigan.
>BACK IN THE DAY - "Back in the day, we used
>'back-in-the-day' to mean something really
>historical. Now you hear ridiculous statements
>such as 'Back in the day, people used
>Blackberries without Blue Tooth.'" - Liz
>Jameson, Tallahassee, Florida.
>"This one might've already made the list back in
>the day, which was a Wednesday, I think." - Tim
>Bradley, Los Angeles, California.
>RANDOM - Popular with teenagers in many places.
>"Over-used and usually out of context, i.e. 'You are so random!'
>Really? Random is supposed to mean 'by chance.'
>So what I said was by chance, and not by
>choice?" - Gabriel Brandel, Farmington Hills,
>"Outrageous mis- and overuse, mostly by
>teenagers, i.e. 'This random guy, singing this
>random song...It was so random.' Grrrrr." -
>Leigh, Duncan, Galway, Ireland.
>"Overuse on a massive scale by my fellow youth.
>Every event, activity and person can be 'sooo
>random' as of late. Banish it before I go
>vigilante." - Ben Martin, Adelaide, South
>"How can a person be random?" - Emma Halpin,
>Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom.
>SWEET - "Too many sweets will make you sick. It
>became popular with the advent of the television
>show 'South Park' and by rights should have died
>of natural causes, but the term continues to
>cling to life.
>It is annoying when young children use it and
>have no idea why, but it really sounds stupid
>coming from the mouths of adults. Please kill
>this particular use of an otherwise fine word."
>- Wayne Braver, Manistique, Michigan
>"Youth lingo overuse, similar to 'awesome.' I
>became sick of this one immediately." - Gordon
>Johnson, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
>DECIMATE - Word-watchers have been calling for
>the annihilation of this one for several years.
>"Used today in reference to widespread
>destruction or devastation. If you will not
>banish this word, I ask that its use be
>(reduced by one-tenth)." - Allan Dregseth, Fargo, North Dakota.
>"I nominate 'decimate' as it applies to Man's
>and Nature's destructive fury and the outcome of
>sporting contests. Decimate simply means a 10%
>reduction - no more, no less. It may have
>derived notoriety because the ancient Romans
>used decimation as a technique for prisoner of
>war population reduction or an incentive for
>under-performing battle units. A group of 10
>would be assembled and lots drawn. The nine
>losers would win and the winner would die at the
>hands of the losers - a variation on the instant
>lottery game. Perhaps 'creamed' or 'emulsified'
>should be substituted. - Mark Dobias, Sault Ste.
>Marie, Michigan.
>"The word is so overused and misused, people use
>it when they should be saying 'annihilate.' It's
>so bad that now there are two definitions, the
>real one and the one that has taken over like a
>- Dane, Flowery Branch, Georgia.
>"'Decimate' has been turned upside down. It
>means 'to destroy one tenth,' but people are
>using it to mean 'to destroy nine tenths.' -
>David Welch, Venice, Florida.
>EMOTIONAL - "Reporters, short on vocabulary,
>often describe a scene as 'emotional.' Well
>sure, but which emotion? For a radio reporter to
>gravely announce, 'There was an emotional send
>off to Joe Blow' tells me nothing, other than
>the reporter perceived that the participants
>acted in an emotional way. For instance: I had
>an emotional day today.
>I started out feeling tired and a bit grumpy
>until I had my coffee. I was distraught over a
>cat killing a bird on the other side of the
>street. I was bemused by my reaction to the way
>nature works. I was intrigued this evening to
>add a word or two to your suggestions. I was
>happy to see the words that others had posted.
>Gosh, this has been an emotional day for me." -
>Brendan Kennedy, Quesnel, British Columbia,
>POP - "On every single one of the 45,000
>decorating shows on cable TV (of which I watch
>many) there is at LEAST one obligatory use of a
>phrase such as ... 'the addition of the red
>really makes it POP.' You know when it's coming
>... you mouth it along with the decorator. There
>must be some other way of describing the
>addition of an interesting detail." - Barbara,
>Arlington, Texas.
>IT IS WHAT IT IS - "This pointless phrase,
>uttered initially by athletes on the losing side
>of a contest, is making its way into general
>use. It accomplishes the dual feat of adding
>nothing to the conversation while also being
>phonetically and thematically redundant." -
>Jeffrey Skrenes, St. Paul, Minnesota.
>"It means absolutely nothing and is mostly a cop
>out or a way to avoid answering a question in a
>way that might require genuine thought or
>insight. Listen to an interview with some coach
>or athlete in big-time sports and you'll
>inevitably hear it." - Doug Compo, Brimley,
>"It seems to be everywhere and pervade every
>section of any newspaper I read. It reminds me
>of 'Who is John Galt?' from 'Atlas Shrugged.' It
>implies an acceptance of the status quo
>regardless of the circumstances. But it is what
>it is." - Erik Pauna, Mondovi, Wisconsin.
>"Only Yogi Berra should be allowed to utter such
>a circumlocution." - Jerry Holloway, Belcamp,
>"This is migrating from primetime 'reality
>television' and embedding itself into otherwise
>articulate persons' vocabularies. Of course it
>is what it is...Otherwise, it wouldn't be what
>it would have been!" - Steve Olsen, Sault Ste.
>Marie, Ontario, Canada.
>UNDER THE BUS - "For overuse. I frequently hear
>this in the clichÈ-filled sports world, where
>it's used to describe misplaced blame - i.e.
>'After Sunday's loss, the fans threw T.O. under
>the bus."
>- Mark R. Hinkston, Racine, Wisconsin.
>"Please, just 'blame' them." - Mike Lekan, Kettering, Ohio.
>"Just wondering when someone saying something
>negative became the same as a mob hit. Since
>every sportscaster in the US uses it, is a call
>for the media to start issuing a thesaurus to
>everyone in front of a camera." - Mark Bockhaus,
>Appleton, Wisconsin.
>The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48864 USA

The American Dialect Society -

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