Thursday, January 22, 2015

Don't Speak...Don't Tell Me 'Cause It Hurts
Lest I be typecast as a Stuffy Language Martinet, I will talk about The Language again; this time, however, let us chat about Words. How I love them! And contrary to popular belief, I love how our language is elastic and accommodating and expands to accept new words all the time.

For the most part.

But let's face it. Lots of words that have entered The Language, whether through slang, politics, business, or the tech world, are simply terrible and horrid. When we hear them, our response can vary from annoyance to hurt feelings, from an eye roll to a rising gorge. Sometimes, if you're like me, you might even wish that Official Smacking From A Retired English Teacher were permissible, even encouraged. (I'm willing to stipulate that, perhaps, that response may be Just Me.)

Regardless, for the past forty years, a college in Michigan has become relatively celebrated for annually publicizing a list of words that it deems banished from The Language for "misuse, overuse, and general uselessness." (Apparently, anyone can submit nominations for the list here.) Let's take a look at their list of banned words for 2015, thanks to their misuse, overuse, and general uselessness in 2014:

1. BAE--Supposedly an acronym for "before anyone else", this is a term of endearment whose acronym meaning was added well after its usage became popular. Personally, I think if you have to shorten "babe", you are beyond lazy, or "blay".

2. POLAR VORTEX--This was an actual meteorological thing, but because the media could not help themselves and repeated it like a mantra, it made living through it that much harder.

3. HACK--Let's go back to saying "tip" or "suggestion" and use HACK to mean a bad cough, bad writer, or bad haircut.

4. SKILL SET--"Skills." You're welcome.

5. SWAG--I have one of these above most of my living room and bedroom drapes. I like that meaning. Beyond that, what's wrong with "swagger," a word we already have? Too long to type or say? Actually, this would be a terrifically creative slang term for "penis." Think about all the meaning packed in there.

6. FOODIE--I consider myself a foodie, a person who is interested in and appreciates food, whether it is eating it, growing it, cooking/baking it, or selecting it and trying new kinds of it. I'm not really a gourmet, and I'm not aware of another word that expresses What I Am. Tell me one, and I'm happy to banish foodie forever. It's a goofy, kiddish word.

7. CURATE/CURATED--What a pretentious, overblown term for "chosen" or "selected." How terribly stupid, really.  Does one really curate an array of garage sale items?  Cans of cat food?  If so, I am a Curator.

8. FRIEND-RAISING--I had never heard this, ever, but I am old and not on TwitPinFace. Apparently, it is using your Social Media Contacts for fundraising purposes. How utterly gauche and incredibly opportunistic. It's like when Jerry Seinfeld got a girl's phone number off an AIDS walk list.

9. CRA-CRA--I first heard this horrifically grating term for "crazy" from Valerie Mayen, Cleveland designer on Season 8 of Project Runway in 2010. Hated it then; hate it now. Love her clothes, though.

10. ENHANCED INTERROGATION--Oh, Dick Cheney and Faux News can call it anything they want. Torture is torture. Get ready for more of this term because another Bush is running, and there will be at least half a dozen debates.

11. TAKEAWAY--I love how the UK use this term rather than "carryout" for food to go. But this is the tiresome, big-meeting, inservice application. It's the new "bottom line" and "final analysis." Ugh. Nothing good--even linguistically--happens in meetings.

12. -NATION--Tack this on the end of something and it identifies a group of followers or fans. Raiders Nation. Cubs Nation. Nance Nation. Hey, wait...! No, not even that one makes it okay. So cliche, so ubiquitous, so unimaginative. Even if there were Poe Nation or DickinsoNation, I'd say no, stop. Just. Stop.

I have my own list of Words I Am Sick Of Hearing. Honestly. These words wear me out. I know they can't disappear; they have, in some cases, a legitimate raison d'etre. I'm just really tired of reading and hearing them. In no particular order, they are:

1. Kale--Overrated, tastes like dirt, now trendy and therefore overpriced.
2. Organic--Everything in the universe now comes in organic form.
3. Amazing--I railed against this overworked word years ago in a separate post.
4. Facebook--I cannot go a single day without hearing or seeing a mention of this. I still want nothing to do with it.
5. Veggies--I'm an adult; I can handle the word "vegetables." I know what they are, and I don't need them to be made cutesy in order for me to eat them or want to eat them.

Full disclosure:  I desperately wanted to add "Beyonce" and "Kardashian" to this list.  But I felt it would open the door to a great deal of proper nouns that were simply People We Disliked, not truly Words That Sickened Us.  In the case of Beyonce and Kardashians, the former is not someone I dislike.  I really am tired of hearing about her.  When it comes to Kardashians, however, it is a fact that not only am I weary of hearing the name, but I also dislike the very Idea Of Them.

So.  Now it is your turn, your opportunity to Banish Words From The Language, or, at the very least, to identify a few Words Which Sicken You.  List away in Comments.


  1. Words DO hurt! (I seen it in a commercial) ;)

    1. Sillyak--I'm in pain right now.

  2. I am not personally fond of the word 'ginormous'. Can't something be either gigantic or enormous, and leave it at that?

    I'm tired of the term "clean eating". I take it to mean, eating things that are good for you, avoiding things that are not, but I always have a sinking feeling that someone is going to go on a juice fast and take a coffee enema when I hear this term. I'm not interested.

    I'm with you on the lists above. Hack. Really? It's a life hack to know how to fold a sweater properly? Blech.

    I've never heard of friend sourcing, thank god.

    There are so many words in the working world that bug the crap out of me, I can't even begin. I don't know if these words are specific to the tech world or not, but as that is where I work, I hear them far too often for my taste. I generally don't have any idea what the person is even talking about when they use these terms.

    1. J@jj--I'm with you on "ginormous." It sounds like something Gidget from the old movie days would have said in an exclamation starting with "Gee!". And "eating clean" sounds horrifying to me as well. Bereft of sauce, butter, dabs of this and that? No thank you. It also sounds like someone terribly boring is talking and might soon start droning on and on about abs, gluten-free, kale, and cardio. No thank you.

  3. Thank you for explaining what "bae" means. I've heard it used but had no idea what it meant. I won't be using it, but at least now I know.

    #3, #4 & #7 are ones that I especially dislike. I'm with you on those for sure.

    As for my pet-peeve over-used word that drives me bonkers… the winner is… DETS. As in details. As in the speaker is too lazy to say both syllables of the word, so he or she says DETS. So stupid.

    1. Ally Bean--I believe it is spelled "deets." I could be wrong, but when I use it flippantly, I spell it that way. Sorry. I hope it helps to say that I only use it when I am trying to be silly and not at all serious. And never in my Real Life.

      Promise to stop forever.

    2. nance, I bet that you're right about the spelling. I hear it more often than see it in print. Thank you for dropping it from your vocabulary. I appreciate it. Now, how do I get all these local radio and TV personalities to do the same?

    3. You're welcome. In all honesty, it won't be too hard. As far as a campaign to get others to follow suit, good luck with that.

  4. I love it when you discuss the ongoing evolution of words. Such fun! My random thoughts, some of which are based on stuff that is not at all recent.

    hack = I am referring to the sense of this word in the title of the new TRU TV show Hack my life. I suppose this is in line with “tip” or “suggestion,” but I think this takes it one step further and refers to actually producing a physical product that makes life simpler, cheaper or easier. I found a blog with a similar title that defined this phrase as “finding shortcuts for things that take too much time or effort, or finding ways to reclaim time from activities that waste it.” I am not so much bothered by it as confused by it, i.e., my problem is less with veering from the traditional meaning of “hack” and more with how they got from “hack” in the sense of “computer hacking” to what I consider a new interpretation. Because I believe that the computer hacking concept gave birth to this new concept of hacking. I’m just missing a few steps in the evolutionary process.

    -nation = Agree with you, and wanted to say that I feel the same about -tastic, as in funtastic, etc.

    heinous = People who (over)use this word are immediately classified as “Just trying to sound like a member of the intelligent elite at a social gathering, but in fact, could not write a coherent essay on any subject if their useless college degree depended on it.”

    peeps = e.g., slang for friends or colleagues.

    cheesy = For me, this would be something made of cheese, or something which included cheese as a major ingredient, but not necessarily something of inferior quality. Cheese is such a lovely food! Why should something of inferior quality (or basically a piece of crap, which is what is implied) be described as “cheesy”?? Or is it because it is the Velveeta of the cheese world?

    to ramp up = Everything is getting ramped up lately, and largely because the media is ramping it up!

    wheelhouse = as in, “That’s not in my wheelhouse.” I am so out of it. I bet this has been in common parlance for ages. According to Urban Dictionary, it means: “area of expertise, a particular skill.” UGH. Is “wheelhouse” the new “skill set”?

  5. Ortizzle--You know, I really do hate CHEESY, too. And, to make it even worse, I often encounter it spelled "chessy." Please. Really? That alone makes me absolutely furious beyond all reason.

    HEINOUS is an old, 90s slang word that has seen its day. "That sweater is truly heinous" is a line paraphrased from the movie Clueless (1995), I think. Someone will correct me, I'm sure.

    -TASTIC, however, is always a sad old chestnut of a suffix. That, along with -GATE for any scandal, continues to annoy me.

    On a related note, is TX behind in its slang? Several of these are a bit dated. Even for NEO, which is always Behind The Times.

  6. I think wheelhouse might have originated in the sports world - baseball announcers will often say, "that pitch is right in his wheelhouse."

    I thought swag was the stuff you get when you go to the Oscars - or at the benefit fair at work when we get stuffed Snoopys from Met Life & eyeglass repair kits from the vision provider.

    Boy I agree about the taste of kale - blech!

    As you can probably tell from my rambling, I think I might be too tired to think about words right now :)

    1. Bug--Good point about the origin of many of the most annoying, yet egregious overworked words in our world--sports. I'm often resentful of the influence that Sports In General exerts over my life: television, news, The Language, fashion. It's as if it is Assumed that Everyone--EVERYONE--is a sports fan. Sorry, no.

  7. Well, Nance, I *DID* put a disclaimer out, to wit: " ... based on stuff that is not all that recent." Maybe I should have said "based on stuff that is ancient and no one even thinks about anymore," lol. Conclusion: It's not Texas. It's me. Twenty-five years of living outside the States has left me woefully behind, and even after several years back here, I have still not caught up entirely. So my list definitely has whiskers on it. But they are words that one still hears, and which get my attention. For comments on recent stuff, besides what you already mention, check with me in 5 years. ;-)

    1. Ortizzle--Mea culpa. You certainly did, and I missed it or, even worse, FORGOT ABOUT IT once I got to the end of my own reading/commenting. Sigh. Save me. Save me from this Winter Mushbrain. Please forgive. As is sometimes necessary in all Relationships, please accept my It's Not You, It's Me.


  8. I have always liked the word "ginormous" because I first saw it used in my all-time favorite novel, "Happy All the Time", by the late, great Laurie Colwin. (For those who love Laurie's writing as much as I do, her entire book collection has been issued on ebook. I'm in the midst of downsizing from a three bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment, so I am saving space where I can, which includes replacing regular books with ebooks. I know, it's a SHANDA {a wonderful Yiddish word for "disgrace"}) Anyway, ginormous is a great word to me, though I never use it.

    And, yes, "swag" is the loot given out to Oscar winners and nominees. I don't use it, myself, but maybe if I was given the opportunity to get "swag", I would use it. I do like, and use, the silly word "vay-ca", meaning "vacation". I'm not too lazy to say the full word, but saying "vay-ca" is fun. However, I don't say "vay vay jay" (or whatever the word is for vagina) because, damn it, call body parts by their unsilly names!

    1. phoebes in sf--I had never heard "shanda" before, unless you count it as a proper name, in which case I've had several Shandas in my years as a teacher. I have a great fondness for Yiddish, and I'm often surprised by the number of Yiddish words I use in everyday discourse/writing. (I am willing to bet that several of you would be, too. Here is a list.

      Beyond all that, I remain as steadfast in my dislike for "ginormous" as you do in your defense of it, and that's just fine. I checked a few sources for "vacay" and that seems to be the consensus on spelling; however, I dislike that term as well. It seems too young and as if I'm trying too hard to be young if I would use it. It's not my style, and everyone who knows me would think it strange were I to use it.

      Totally in agreement with you on va-jay-jay, that horrific and cringeworthy term for vagina. Odd, juvenile names for especially the female anatomy do nothing to advance women's right to health care or equality or RESPECT in any arena. We only serve as our own worst enemy when we perpetuate this sort of thing. It's a shanda.


      (I am willing to bet that several of you would be, too. Here is a list.) <-------------THERE IT IS.

    3. Using "Va-jay-jay" instead of "vagina" is indeed a shanda. I liked the list you included; lots of good, earthy words there.

      I've been to Germany quite a few times and I'm always a bit taken aback when I see the word "schmuck", which means "jewelry".
      And, of course, when I'm driving, I always laugh like a naughty child when I see "abfarht" on a highway sign. It means, I think, "exit" (or maybe "entrance". Hell, I don't know...though it does seem important to know when I'm driving!)

  9. It took Enhanced Interrogation ,which almost drove me cra cra to get this to you BAE..I will be testing my skill-set,Nation, but this is the takeaway. I'm hoping you will help me with the answer. I've curated some foodie friends of mine and asked them to stop their friend-raising long enough to give me a hack on the confusion I've been having .

    Here is the puzzle.Since the Polar Vortex has made the temperature plummet my boyfriend's Swag is considerably smaller. Think George Costanza swimming in Long Island Sound. My question to you is: Shall I get a new boyfriend or shrink my va-jay-jay?

  10. Nancy--Thank you for making the point so clearly that this sort of TrendSpeak is grating, annoying, and awful.

    I will say, however, that the idea of being your bae tickles me to no end.

  11. Also, the "Gate" thing. Do people know that Watergate was a hotel? It wasn't a controversy about water. At least the newest one "Deflategate" rhymes, but it still makes no sense.

    1. Jared--This suffix is older than you are. Now I want to go all the way back to The Olde Dayes and find out who the moron was who started using -gate at the end of a completely unrelated word to indicate scandal. Gee, thanks a lot! ;-)

      But, yes ,the Gate Thing persists as annoying. The fact that it even persists is incredible to me, considering that it's likely a good 80% of the American Public have no idea what Watergate really was.

  12. The media is so unimaginative that every scandal has to be a "gate". I remember - well - the original "Watergate" scandal and most of the "scandals" since then were pale in comparison.

    1. phoebes in sf--You know, at the time, I was not completely aware of what Watergate was, but I recall the complete disgust of my father, later, when Nixon resigned. Dad was no fan of the republicans, and he ranted for days about how Nixon had disgraced The Office and the country.

      It wasn't until my first year of college, in an American history class, that I fully understood Watergate, under the tutelage of an inspiring professor whom I will never forget. He gave me back my country's history, really, and for that I am so grateful.

  13. Amazing is the worst. What happens when someone has their first child? Gets married? I mean, you already used "amazing" to describe your chicken wings that one Saturday. Further, people insisting that their significant other is "amazing". If putting up with someone's day-to-day crap makes them "amazing", I'm doing better than I thought. Also, Mother Theresa was amazing. Ghandi was amazing. Maybe the dude/girl that bought you an iPad for Christmas is on a slightly different level.

    "Hack" needs to be done away with in another facet as well. When someone grabs your phone and sends an email, a tweet, or a Facebook post because you were still logged were not hacked. They didn't go through scores of code to infiltrate your advanced security system and sew seeds of destruction or chaos. This isn't War Games. You were careless and someone took advantage of you.

    1. Wow. I think your paragraph regarding "amazing" says it better than I could have. Seriously. There it is. Actually, the second, third, and fourth sentences pretty much do it, period. Thank you. Okay.

      All done here!

  14. I can't say enough how entirely I agree with you - and Jared - on the overuse of the word 'amazing.' Here in the UK, the word 'brilliant' is being worked overtime in the same lazy and inaccurate way. And I completely agree with you on Yiddish, although I think the fact that I already speak German may have been the reason it was so easy for me to incorporate into my daily speech. MrL and I also have very close friends who are Jewish and whose speech is sprinkled with Yiddish phrases, which we have, over time, assimilated just because they are more appropriate than anything we can come up with English. I still can't think of a better response to good news than 'Mazel Tov!'

  15. MsCaroline--I had noticed that with "brilliant." I do not converse with British speakers, but do read a great deal of UK comments and articles online. I had been using "feh" in my posts here for years, and I think it was Ortizzle who became curious about it. She was conversant with the word "meh", but that was it. I hesitate to use too much Yiddish in everyday language/writing because it feels grabby to me, as if I just co-opted the language. I don't like to be disrespectful.

    BTW--forgot to mention in my other response to your comment; yes, the Zen of Zydrunas will be a new sidebar feature for at least a while.


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