Saturday, January 5, 2013

Some words and phrases need to be kicked over the fiscal cliff for good

I don’t know about you, but in 2013, I hope I never have to hear the words “YOLO,” “trending,” or “fiscal cliff” again. Apparently, I’m not alone. In fact, Lake Superior State University has just published its 2013 List of Banished Words and all three of these words make an appearance.

Yes, I’ll admit that it’s a bit nerdy of me to look forward to a list of banned words each New Year instead of ringing in the New Year in more traditional ways. But how much fun is a New Year’s Eve party when you can rail against the overuse of the term “spoiler alert?”

Thank goodness that the folks at Lake Superior State University have their finger on the pulse of all that is obnoxious in our spoken language. Here’s how they do it: They accept nominations for words (or phrases) that simply need to go away before someone starts screaming each time she hears it. Sorry, was that too autobiographical?

The university has included nearly 900 words or phrases over the 38 years it’s been publishing the list. To that, I say “huzzah!” Keep up the good work, my word nerd friends.

So what are this year’s additions, you ask? Let me hit the highlights for you:

I’m not going to assume that everyone knows what YOLO means, especially since I didn’t know what it meant until I asked my 16-year-old son. My favorite version, however, is a popular meme making the rounds. It’s a picture of Yoda from Star Wars with the letters OOYL under him. The following line reads: “Only once you live.” Word.

Fiscal cliff has become the new “at the end of the day,” a phrase that has been so overused it has become meaningless. Let’s break it down, shall we? “Fiscal” means money; “cliff” means death (we’ve seen Roadrunner). We get the picture. Now make a decision already!

Kick the can down the road. I just heard this phrase this very morning as people at work were talking about … wait for it … the fiscal cliff! Gaaaa! Until now, “Kick the Can” was a game we played as kids until the streetlights came on, signaling it was time to head inside. Apparently, it now means that Congress refuses to play well with one another at all. Sigh.

Double down is a blackjack term that is now being used to mean “repeat” or “reiterate.” Begs the question, “Why not just use ‘repeat’ or ‘reiterate?’” Answer: Because blackjack seems cooler.

Spoiler alert is a way for pop culture aficionados to prove that they have useless information that you don’t yet have. Like who was voted off of “Survivor” last night. As if I care.

Bucket list has been around for many years, but is finally getting the ol’ Michigan heave-ho from Lake Superior State University. Well played, Michigan (and I don’t say that often, being an Ohio native and all).

Guru has taken over as the replacement for expert. No longer are you an expert in automotive repair, you are a “car guru.” I’m sorry, but unless a mechanic is teaching transcendental meditation while replacing my radiator, he isn’t a guru. Not to mention how hard it would be to find your “center” in the middle of a radiator.

Superfood is just ridiculous. As Jason Hansen of Frederic, Mich., wrote on the Lake Superior State University website: “It’s food. It’s either healthful or it’s not. There is no ‘super’ involved.”

There were three other words added, but I’ve not eaten enough superfoods to kick that particular can down the road. Rest assured, however, you won’t be finding any of these words or phrases in my columns in 2013.

I remain, your humble grammar guru. (See what I did there?)

Eileen Burmeister lives, writes, and obnoxiously corrects other people’s grammar in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister (where she will never be TRENDING).

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