Watch What You Say: A List of Overused, Generally Useless Words
Amazing. Baby bump. Shared sacrifice. Occupy. Blowback. Man cave. The New Normal. Pet Parent. Win the future. Trickeration. Ginormous. Thank you in advance.
Meet the 2012 edition of Lake Superior State University’s annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. (Speaking of useless, how about trimming that title, LSSU?)
For serious logophiles, the tongue-in-cheek list has become a New Year’s Day tradition. Launched in 1976 as a publicity gimmick for LSSU, it helped the small school in Sault Ste. Marie, MI, re-brand itself from its original incarnation as a branch of the Michigan College of Mining and Technology.
Then again, how much re-branding can there be for a college with the acronym LSSU? To anyone south of the U.S./Canadian border, it sounds like LSU (Louisiana State University), spoken by someone with a stutter or half loaded.
In any case, the ’76 list was topped by “at this point in time;” a linguistic train wreck popularized by the Nixon administration. ‘Meaningful input’ and ‘macho,’ among others, followed. Now, nominations are open to the public throughout the year.
For 2012, “amazing” logged the most noms. That in itself is amazing because “amazing” has been a cliché longer than have the Mummers. Talk-show hosts, particularly Martha Stewart, were cited as having beaten the poor adjective to a pulp. “Hair is not ‘amazing.’ Shoes are not ‘amazing,’” a Michigan woman wrote.
For the record, my least-favorite A-word, “awesome,” cracked the list back in ’84. A go-to position for the adjective impaired, “awesome” runs wild during gift-giving occasions.
“Baby bump,” a past nominee, finished a close No. 2 for 2012. Hurray. First, it’s trite. Second, it’s used almost exclusively to describe celebs. Third, any woman who’s ever lugged around a huge pregnant belly in August will tell you that babies are no “bumps.”
No. 3, “occupy,” gets a bum rap here. Nothing more than the reflection of a political trend, it will soon lose its cliché status. Protesters, at least those outside of warm climes, don’t tend to occupy outdoor spaces in winter. Look for “occupy” to return to where it belongs–on lavatory doors in airplanes.
“Blowback,” No. 4, is a mystery to me. It’s such a heterosexually-charged word, and the only person I’ve heard say it consistently is MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who is a raging lesbian. Go figure.
As for “trickeration,” I’ve never heard anyone say that one, even football analysts who supposedly came up with the idea. Moreover, it’s a made-up word, not listed in the dictionary or thesaurus. Not kosher. So there.
I must plead guilty to “Thank you in advance,” however. I routinely use it at the end of business correspondence, followed by “for your cooperation.” If you think about it, it’s pretty lame. It assumes the recipient will cooperate, which hardly ever happens.
What’s next, “You’re welcome in retrospect?”