Jan 1, 2008

Wordsmiths at LSSU release annual list of overused words

National attention is drawn each year to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and one of Michigan’s 15 public universities when the "wordsmiths" at Lake Superior State University in balmy Sault Ste. Marie release their annual “List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.”

As a reporter and writer, some of the words on the 33rd annul list are ones that I and other journalists have used and will most likely continue to use. With out further ado, here is the list of 19 words that made the list with explanations by the students from LSSU.

PERFECT STORM -- "Overused by the pundits on evening TV shows to mean just about any coincidence." --Lynn Allen, Warren, Mich.

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, Michigan.

WATERBOARDING -- "Let's banish 'waterboarding' to the beach, where it belongs with boogie boards and surfboards." -- Patrick K. Egan, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

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, N.Y. 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."

WORDSMITH/WORDSMITHING -- "I've never read anything created by a wordsmith - or via wordsmithing - that was pleasant to read." -- Emily Kissane, St. Paul, Minn.

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, Mich.

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.
"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 its 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, Mo.
"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, Mich.

'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, Conn.
"'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, Mich.

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, Mich.

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, Fla.

RANDOM -- Popular with teenagers in many places. "Over-used and usually out of context, e.g., '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, Mich.

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, Mich.

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 'decimated' (reduced by one-tenth)." -- Allan Dregseth, Fargo, N.D.

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, Canada.

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, Minn.

UNDER THE BUS -- "For overuse. I frequently hear this in the cliché-filled sports world, where it's used to describe misplaced blame, e.g., After Sunday's loss, the fans threw T.O. under the bus." -- Mark R. Hinkston, Racine, Wis.

All that snow and cabin fever on Dec. 31, 1975 must have helped inspire former LSSU Public Relations Director Bill Rabe and his colleagues when they cooked up the idea to banish overused words and phrases and issue a list on New Year's Day. According to the press release announcing this year's words, the list comes from thousands of nominations received through the university's website. Word-watchers target pet peeves from everyday speech, as well as from the news, education, technology, advertising, politics, sports and more. A committee makes a final cut in late December, and the list is released on New Year's Day.

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