Saturday, January 7, 2012

Banned words for 2012 - Do you agree?

I've always thought that banned-book lists were silly. You can't control what someone reads, right? And why would you? They're not hurting anyone by reading "Catcher in the Rye" for the 27th time.

But I may be changing my tune. I just caught wind of a list of banned words and phrases that are no longer to be uttered in the new year. Huzzah! (That's not one of the banned words, just my getting behind this effort.)

Lake Superior State University in Michigan announced the list just before New Year's Eve.

Now, as a native Ohioan, I have sworn to love my state and hate everything from Michigan. (I believe it's in the small print when you sign to get your license or something.) So you can imagine my surprise when I read an article from a university in Michigan and said, "Wow, they got that right!"

Each year the school proclaims its List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse. (They're in America, so I'm not sure which queen they're referring to—maybe Latifah?)

Apparently, the list is compiled by the school from nominations from around the globe. It started on New Year's Day 1976 as a publicity stunt by the school's public relations department. Since then they have received tens of thousands of nominations.

How did I not know about this? The thought of ranting to someone who actually cares is beyond exciting. (Not to mention how thrilled my husband and kids will be that I have an alternative outlet for said rants.)

So what's on the list? Here are a few of this year's banned terms:

1. "Occupy." My husband teased me that I should start an Occupy My Couch movement in which I take one exceedingly long nap to bring attention to something. (I'm still working out the details, but it's something really important).

2. "Amazing." Just take a look at a teen's Facebook wall or Twitter feed and you'll see why this word has to be banned immediately. No, your new boots from Christmas are not "amazing"; they're simply kind of cute. Be more accurate!

3. "Trickeration." A term popularized by sports analysts to describe a tricky play—most likely learned at the George W. Bush School of Sports Broadcasting.

4. "Man cave." When I've had occasion to actually see a man cave, I've been horribly underwhelmed. I believe "man cave" is a euphemism for "I don't have to pick up after myself in this area." Nothing good comes from this line of thinking.

5. "Ginormous." It's a blend of gigantic and enormous. Not to be overly dramatic, but I believe it's evil and must be destroyed. It's ridicusurd.

6. "The new normal." This phrase was created by those in denial, those who believed we were ever normal before.

7. "Thank you in advance." You haven't done it yet. You don't want to do it. But I'll pressure you into doing it by thanking you up front, and now I can wash my hands of this request. Nicely played, me.

8. "Win the future." No pressure there. Not only do you have to take one day at a time, you must win the entire future. What does that even mean? As an Oregonian, if I hear the University of Oregon Ducks' motto "win the day" one more time I might have to poke someone's eye out with something sharp. Consider yourselves warned.

What's the big fuss, you ask?

University Spokesman John Shibley put it this way in USA Today:

"A lot of people can take this wrong. We don't mean any malice when we publish it. If it makes you angry, it gets you thinking about language. If it gets you laughing, it gets you thinking about language. It's done its job—to get you to think about how you express yourself."

Now that's a movement I could occupy for some time.

Eileen Burmeister is a corporate writer and humor columnist who lives, works and writes in Southern Oregon. She can be reached at, or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

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