Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Banned Words

Happy New Year, everybody. It is December 31st, which means (like every December 31st since 1975) Lake Superior State University has released what is now its 35th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. You can find the list here.

This year's list doesn't thrill me as much as last year's did, though I do have three observations.

First, I agree that most of the listed words are annoying (e.g., "tweet.," "chillaxin'," or "friend" as a verb) but that doesn't mean they are useless or overused. All of those words are irritating, but not banish-worthy. If someone says "I friended so-and-so," we all know they're talking about facebook. No misuse or uselessness there.

Others from the list, however, are right on point. "Czar" for example. Everyone who isn't talking about Russia should just stop using it. Right now. Ditto "teachable moment." I can't stand that phrase any more than the good folks at Lake Superior State University -- it's condescending, pseudo-philosophical, and just . . . yuck. I wish it would go away. What's wrong with "lesson"? Lastly, (*cough* Armen *cough*) I see that I have been vindicated with respect to "these economic times."

Third, there are a couple words on the list that I think are perfectly useful. "App" is one. So, probably, is "sexting." I mean, it really gets the point across, isn't prone to misuse, and if it's over-used, well, that may say more about our culture than it does about our language.

Finally, here are a few words and phrases I feel should be on the list, but didn't make it.
  1. "Pragmatic." Ugh. This is a high-nosed person's way of claiming to be blue collar. They could just say "realistic" but that word is too proletariat, too common, and creates a risk that people actually will think the person is common. "Pragmatic" is the verbal prius of American English, the goldfish of pets, and the Joe Lieberman of the republican party.
  2. "It's all good." The only time people use this phrase is when something isn't good.
  3. "Douche." It's been repeated to oblivion, thanks largely to all the douches out there. We need a new word or phrase for this idea. I'll open the comments by inviting your to imbed your suggestions in derogatory sentences directed at me. They're inevitable, so we might as well make it productive.
Setting all that aside for a moment, though: Happy 2010 everybody!



Blogger Sean said...

Patrick, I know exactly how to respond to your post. First of all, stop being such a douche. People can use whatever words they want to to express themselves. Indeed, policing one's own language is not pragmatic at all. To do so would greatly reduce one's expressive creativity in favor of what is tantamount to political correctness.

In the end, however someone wants to represent themselves, it's all good. As long as you get the gist, the precise vernacular is not that important.

(Happy New Year!)

1/01/2010 3:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He bit hungrily into his bread and swallowed a couple of mouthfuls, then continued speaking, with a sort of pedant's passion. His thin dark face had become animated, his eyes had lost their mocking expression and grown almost dreamy.

'It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn't only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take "good", for instance. If you have a word like "good", what need is there for a word like "bad"? "Ungood" will do just as well -- better, because it's an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of "good", what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like "excellent" and "splendid" and all the rest of them? "Plusgood" covers the meaning, or "doubleplusgood" if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already. but in the final version of Newspeak there'll be nothing else. In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words -- in reality, only one word. Don't you see the beauty of that, Winston? It was B.B.'s idea originally, of course,' he added as an afterthought.

1/01/2010 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Duff said...

I was recently on Wiki attempting to interpret the difference between czar and tsar. Apparently, tsar referred to a king and czar referred to an emperor in the literal or metaphorical sense. I think Tsar became the standard title for Bulgarian and Russian kings.

1/01/2010 11:31 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I would like to renew my annual plea for everyone to please stop using "said" as an adjective. You sound like a dick.

1/02/2010 9:54 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

Dan, could you please give an example of said issue with the English language?

1/02/2010 1:08 PM  
Blogger Dan said...


1/02/2010 2:29 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I agree that Douche has become too overused to be effective, but it's just such a great word for describing a douche. It rolls off the tongue, it packs a punch, and it's tough to one-up without being too crude. I really think it is the best derogatory word in generations.

But its glory days are waning, and we will need a worthy replacement. I think we should start a nationwide contest or something, with a lot of prize money, because it Douche dies and leaves no successor, it will be a difficult loss indeed. Who among us would want to live in a world without douche? WE WON'T GO BACK!

That said, I submit "asshat."

Also, in keeping with the theme, I have recently begun to notice that "that said" is used far too often, especially by me.

1/02/2010 9:46 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

"That said" also appears to violate your anti-said-as-adjective rule. Of course, if you stretch it out to "having said that" then it doesn't, but I'm not versed well enough in grammar to know the difference.

1/02/2010 9:51 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Hm, fair point. I guess it does modify the noun, but it seems a qualitatively different use from saying "the said ___."

Either way, they both suck. "That said," basically allows you to write off everything you just wrote and say its opposite. It's wishy-washy. I need to stop it.

1/03/2010 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, stop flip-flopping.

1/03/2010 3:21 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Someone just sent this to me. I think it's great, but I'm easy to please. Link here.

1/03/2010 3:22 PM  
Blogger McWho said...


Tsar is how Russians spell "Caesar" using the latin alphabet. In Russia, the Empreror was essentially called Caesar until 1917. Czar is how English speakers spell it.* They mean the same thing, and the only reason there is a difference is that some dude in the 16th century decided to use Cz for some crazy reason.

Ts captures the sound better.
*Also, generally they use Ts in Europe now, anyway.

1/03/2010 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to google, McWho.

1/03/2010 9:41 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

Helps having been there in August for over 3 weeks, living with a Russian family, and visiting every museum in St. Petersburg, too.

1/03/2010 10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D____e is not crude? The word comes from where I think it does, right?

1/03/2010 11:56 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Yeah, but Douche has lost most of its crudeness from overuse. I mean, if they can say it on TV, it's not that crude. And Jon Stewart says it every few sentences. "Suck" and "blows" came from crude places too, but I don't think you'd have much fear of using them in mixed company.

1/04/2010 12:08 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

Maybe I should rename to McWhoPartDeux.

1/04/2010 3:34 PM  

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