Posts tagged ‘language’

January 2, 2017

#122) Language court 2017: the D-Theory verdicts on the LSSU 42nd annual list of banished words

on-fleek

(Well, are you?)

New Years Day means different things to different people. For some folks, it’s the first day without alcohol, tobacco or child pornography. For others, it’s the day they have to start remembering to write a new number in the “date” field on their personal checks. For nerds such as the court, by which I mean myself, it’s the release of Lake Superior State University’s eagerly awaited list of words and expressions that are “banished from the Queen’s English for misuse, overuse and general uselessness.” I often find vindication in seeing phrases that annoy the estrogen out of me singled out on these lists (surely I can’t be the only one who wants to sack-tap anyone who says ‘curated’ – from the 2015 list – or ‘break the internet’ from 2016) and I’ve even gone so far as to make my own (after the response I got, I decided it would be better to let LSSU do the dirty work).

In that spirit, I ask that you dock your selfie drone and focus on this historic town hall meeting in the echo chamber as we guesstimate how many of the 831 items on Lake Superior State University’s 42nd annual listicle of banished words are true bete noires and how many are mere simply post-truths.

YOU, SIR

Charges: “Hails from a far more civilized era when duels were the likely outcome of disagreements.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The court has found that while those who use this expression tend to think they are more droll than they actually are, it is not ubiquitous enough to warrant punishment.

FOCUS

Charges: “Overused when concentrate and look at would be fine.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The court finds that when looked at in the context of….ooh, shiny!

BETE NOIRE

Charges: Being a pretentious synonym for “pet peeve.”

Verdict: Not guilty; the prosecution didn’t even seem to care that much about this one. Note: the court apologizes for not being able to figure out how to create the accent circumflex that goes over the first “e” in “bete” in the WordPress platform.

TOWN HALL MEETING

Charges: Being a misnomer (“Candidates seldom debate in town halls anymore.”)

Verdict: Not guilty; given the election cycle we just witnessed, what we call our debates is the least of our problems.

POST-TRUTH

Charges: Being a trendy way of describing how politicians and others have been able to get people to ignore facts.

Verdict: Guilty. Just as Capone’s tax evasion and O.J.’s memorabilia hijinks stood in for more significant crimes, we are happy to set up “post-truth” as a fall guy for all of the other annoying “post-” expressions that inundate pop culture: “post-punk”, “post-hardcore”, “post-Sasha Fierce”, “post-Freddy Got Fingered” et. al.

GUESSTIMATE

Charges: Overuse

Verdict: Not guilty. The court finds that prosecuting this chronic low-level offender will be more trouble than it’s worth.

831

Charges: Shorthand for “I love you” – 8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning. “Never encrypt or abbreviate one’s  love.”

Verdict: Not guilty. If this one survives until 2018, it will only be from hipsters using it ironically, which may prompt the case to be reopened.

HISTORIC

Charges: Being “thrown around far too much.”

Verdict: Guilty. The court hopes that this verdict serves to inspire those in attendance to avoid hyperbole and find more creative adjectives.

MANICURED

Charges: Overuse

Verdict: Not guilty. The word does have a sort of real-estate-salesman-y feel to it but has not been overused to the point of being divorced from its original meaning.

ECHO CHAMBER

Charges: Overuse

Verdict: Not guilty (for now). Like its accomplice “confirmation bias” this is a reasonably concise way of describing a clearly valid concept.

ON FLEEK

Charges: “Needs to return to its genesis: perfectly groomed eyebrows.”

Verdict: Guilty. The fact that as a society we find eyebrows important enough to nickname is bad enough; worse is that this phrase is already on track to become inescapable and will cause adults to embarrass themselves when using it in the name of hipness, such as Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol.

BIGLY

Charges: Being used by Donald Trump

Verdict: Not guilty. This is the aspect of the pending Trump presidency that we’re going to get upset about?

GHOST

Charges: Being slang for abruptly ending communication, especially on social media

Verdict: Not guilty. Even the prosecution has its doubt: “Is it rejection angst, or is this word really as overused as word-banishment nominators contend?”

DADBOD

Charges: “Empowering dads to pursue a sedentary lifestyle.”

Verdict: Guilty. This word (“the flabby opposite of a chiseled male ideal”) isn’t the one who actually robbed the bank; it was just slower than the ring leader (“dad joke”) in running to escape the word police after the alarm was tripped.

LISTICLE

Charges: A portmanteau of “list” and “article.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The problem is the item itself, not what we call it.

“GET YOUR DANDRUFF UP…”

Charges: Unknown.

Verdict: Not guilty.

SELFIE DRONE

Charges: Breaking new ground in selfies by tasking a drone to enable new angles (“How can this end badly?”)

Verdict: Not guilty. As with “Listicle” there is a difference between a truly annoying, overused expression and simply naming something that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

FRANKENFRUIT

Charges: Being “another food group co-opted by ‘frankenfood’.”

Verdict: Guilty. People have a right to get their dandruff up about genetically modified organisms, but words such as “frankenfruit” that are intended to scare people into ortheorexia nervosa instead might scare some of them straight to McDonald’s.

DISRUPTION

Charges: This classic Van Halen guitar solo is charged with inspiring would-be guitarists at music stores across the country to butcher it while trying out instruments, thus making a…oh, sorry, I thought you said “Eruption.” “Disruption” is charged with “bumping into other over-used synonyms for change.”

Verdict: Not guilty. There can never be enough synonyms for “change.”

As for “that/those/dat ____, tho”, “I’m just going to leave this here” and “[no words]”: consider this a warning.

What say you, sir?

January 4, 2016

#105) Language court 2016: the D-Theory verdicts on LSSU’s newly banished words

So, it looks like this conversation about manspreading is going to break the internet unless we walk it back to before the stakeholders held their presser.

It’s that time of year when language geeks such as myself peruse the various lists of words and phrases that are nominated for banishment. Though many such lists exist, the one published by Lake Superior State University tends to carry the most weight. Like many people, I have made resolutions to be more productive and make greater contributions to society in 2016 and if running down my own personal verdicts on these words doesn’t contribute to society, then slap my ass and sign me up for the Peace Corps. D-Theory Language Court is now in session, the honorable judge D-Lock presiding.

SO

Charges: Peter Gabriel’s fifth solo record is charged with containing the track “In Your Eyes”, thus making people forget about “Games Without Frontiers” and “Family Snap…” Oh, wait, what’s that? Wrong “So?” My bad. “So” is charged with “…Being overused as the first word in the answer to ANY question.”

Verdict: Guilty.

CONVERSATION

Charges: Being a bland, non-offensive, non-specific alternative to words such as “debate”, “discourse” and “argument.”

Verdict: Guilty. To the above mentioned charges, the court adds, “Making a company look desperate when they ask customers/viewers/readers to ‘join the conversation.'”

PROBLEMATIC

Charges: Being a “corporate-academic weasel word.”

Verdict: Not guilty. It does tend to get overused, but what’s the word that we should use instead? Cunty?

STAKEHOLDER

Charges: Being over-used in business to describe customers and others.

Verdict: Not guilty. Yes, it may be a word that folks simply use to sound smart and important, but the court has not found it to be as ubiquitous as some claim.

PRICE POINT

Charges: Using two words when one will do.

Verdict: Guilty. It has a connotation among those who use it that the product is somehow superior.

SECRET SAUCE

Charges: Being a metaphor for success based on the fast food industry.

Verdict: Guilty. If you brag about something, it’s no longer a secret.

BREAK THE INTERNET

Charges: Being hyperbole about the latest controversy that is already becoming trite.

Verdict: Guilty. The court adds the charge of begetting the equally annoying tendency to force the verb “Win” into situations where it doesn’t belong (“Win the internet”; “Win Yom Kippur.”)

WALK IT BACK

Charges: Being an unnecessary synonym for “Back pedal.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The prosecution has the burden of proof and failed to provide any meaningful evidence.

PRESSER

Charges: Being an unnecessarily trendy term for “Press release” or “Press conference.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The court sees this word as a minor offender which will soon slip from popular use.

MANSPREADING

Charges: Being a term for taking up too much room on a subway or bus.

Verdict: Not guilty. As the LSSU prosecution team itself notes, the term is mainly “familiar to those in bigger cities, where seats on the bus or subway are sometimes difficult to find.” Thus, the term is unlikely to infect those in rural areas or places like Los Angeles where one tends not to use public transportation.

VAPE

Charges: Describing the act of “smoking” E-cigarettes.

Verdict: Not guilty. As long as E-cigarettes exist, some word will be necessary to describe the act of using them. We can let “Vape” serve that purpose until something better comes along.

GIVING ME LIFE

Charges: Being an over-used phrase for “making me laugh.”

Verdict: Guilty. Perhaps it’s not as ubiquitous as “Break the internet”, but it still is overwrought.

PHYSICALITY

Charges: Being over-used by sports broadcasters and writers.

Verdict: Not guilty. When you get tired of broadcasters who talk simply to hear the sound of their own voice, remember that your remote control has a “mute” button.

Those who are curious can check out this blog’s verdicts on the 2015 LSSU list.

What say you?

January 2, 2015

#89) Language court: the D-Theory verdicts on 2015’s Banished Words

I hope your take-away from this hack is that you need to curate the skill set to be a good foodie, Bae.

Every year, Lake Superior State University releases a list of words or expressions that should be “banished from Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.” In keeping with this blog’s ongoing theme of devoting far too much time and energy to trivial issues while ignoring significant ones, I am proud to present the D-Theory Verdicts on each list item from the 2015 list. Court is now in session, the honorable judge D-Lock presiding.

“BAE”

Charges: Used both as shorthand for “Before Anything Else” and as a term of endearment (contraction of “Babe”).

Verdict: Guilty. While the court has not personally found this word to be over-used or annoying, it certainly has the potential to be. The preemptive guilty verdict has numerous precedents, in which the list has accurately predicted the rise of a word’s over-use several years out (see  “____ is the new ____” making the 2008 list.)

“POLAR VORTEX”

Charges: Requiring twice as many syllables as its synonym, “Winter.”

Verdict: Not guilty. This one will run itself out.

“HACK”

Charges: Over-use and misuse.

Verdict: Not guilty. Like “Polar Vortex”, this one has the good fortune of being listed at the peak of its popularity and will likely fade, or at least become less ubiquitous, in ’15 and beyond. Additionally, unintentionally humorous uses of the word (“Marriage hacks”) offset the annoyance it brings.

“SKILL SET”

Charges: Adding an extra word (“set”) that doesn’t change or amplify the first word (“skill”).

Verdict: Not guilty. The prosecution presented a weak argument, proving that while this phrase may be somewhat mundane, attempts to rephrase it usually tend to be awkward.

“SWAG”

Charges: Being a “shapeless, meaningless word…with no real depth.”

Verdict: Not guilty; this one is harmless enough and will probably run its course before long.

“FOODIE”

Charges: Being a synonym of “Everybody.” After all, who doesn’t like to eat?

Verdict: Guilty. While it may once have implied a sort of connoisseurship, nowadays with anyone being able to label themselves a foodie, the term has lost its meaning. (See also: Curate/Curated)

“CURATE/CURATED”

Charges: Being a pretentious synonym for “Collected.”

Verdict: Guilty. The problem is that, unlike, say, “Cra-Cra”, people often use this word without realizing how it makes them sound. As Alex Williams puts it in this article, “Among designers, disc jockeys, club promoters, bloggers and thrift-store owners, curate is code for ‘I have a discerning eye and great taste.’”

“CRA-CRA” (See also: Cray-Cray)

Charges: Self-explanatory.

Verdict: Guilty.

“FRIEND-RAISING”

Charges: “The word suggests that we develop relationships not for the simple value of the person we call ‘friend’…but that we instead develop these relationships out of some sort of expectation of a monetary reward.”

Verdict: Not guilty. The court had to Google this one so it can’t be too ubiquitous. Besides, the court has been on both sides of the friend-raising equation too many times to deny the validity of the concept.

“ENHANCED INTERROGATION”

Charges: Being a “shameful euphemism for torture.”

Verdict: Guilty. Like most attempts to appease, this one won’t make people on either side of the issue happy.

“TAKE-AWAY”

Charges: Over-use.

Verdict: Not guilty. Like “Skill set”, this term may be over-used by people who want to sound trendy, but while there may be different ways to word the concept, are “lesson” and “moral” really any better?

“-NATION”

Charges: Over-use and misuse.

Verdict: Not guilty; not worth getting upset over. When a bunch of sports fans call themselves “(Team name) Nation”, it’s all in good fun. That said, there are certain teams for whom the “Nation” tag has more of a pedigree (Red Sox) and some for which it seems a little out of place (also see: Artichoke Nation.)

What say you?

December 30, 2013

#68) 14 Expressions I’d like to see retired for ’14

Three years ago, Lake Superior State University added “viral” and “epic” to their list of banished words.  At the risk of sounding like Lynne (“Eats, Shoots & Leaves”) Truss, I’ll put out my own list for 2014.  I’ll admit that this is a first world problem (a phrase which  might, along with FOMO, go on my 2015 list if I make one but doesn’t bug me enough to make this year’s cut) but I simply find these idioms, well, for lack of a better term, annoying.  Some of them don’t actually refer to the written or spoken word but to memes (see #13).  Without further ado:

#1) “….Said no one ever.”  This will still seem fresh and hip in 2014, said no one ever.

#2) “….Wait for it….” The problem is that most of the time “it” isn’t worth the wait.

#3) Putting. A. Period. After. Every. Word.

#4) “Wait, what?” I’ll admit that most people probably don’t find this expression nearly as annoying as I do.  In further disclosure I should probably say that the root of my annoyance with this phrase probably lies in having had it used on me by someone who’s checked out of one of my rants and is trying to find their way back in out of politeness.

#5) “Who knew?” This is another whose annoyance factor is somewhat hard to explain, so I’ll just leave it at this: my blog, my rules.

#6) “…Not so much.”  Only Borat is allowed to say this, just like he’s the only one who’s still allowed to still tell “NOT!” jokes.

#7) The word “Classy” has two, and only two, syllables.

#8) “(Bygone year) called; it wants its ____ back.”  I thought this one was already laid to rest until I saw it on a billboard.  I forget what product the advertisement was for and was thinking about trying to look it up but I don’t want to give them the free press.

#9) “I know, right?”  In my defense, I’m not the only blogger who has placed this on a list of expressions that should be laid to rest.  (See #2 on this list.)

#10) Any graphic using a witty comment and Gene Wilder.

#11) Any cartoon showing Batman bitch-slapping someone.

#12) I wish people used more hashtags on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. #saidnooneever

#13) Meme.

#14) Comparisons of anyone (even Hitler) to Rosa Parks.

In case you were wondering, which I realize you weren’t, I decided to leave “YOLO” off the list because  this shorthand expression for “You Only Live Once” is so ridiculous it’s actually pretty funny.  Furthermore, people often say “YOLO” right before doing something incredibly stupid which may well remove them from the gene pool; thus the phrase may actually make the world a better place.

So there you have it: my pet peeves.  Some people wish for world peace; some for the end of famine.  I wish for this.  If I’ve left out your favorite worn-out expression, let me know.