Cleaning Out the Language Gutters for 2012

Every year, Michigan’s Lake Superior University and I like to take stock of the English language. The school lets students nominate words that they feel have become misused, overused and cliché, and the winners are compiled into a list for your banishment consideration. This is a valuable lesson in democracy in which students learn that they can make nominations and cast votes, while a college has the liberty of overriding their decision.

I refer to this act as “cleaning out the language gutters,” which should be performed yearly lest they fill with water and gunk, and then freeze and burst. After all, if I wanted to persist with a language full of ridiculous words, I would have continued taking Spanish in college.

“Occupy” made the list, and consequently dominated headlines about it. It was popularized, of course, by the Occupy Wall Street movement as a play on words for graduates that couldn’t find steady work in this economy, so they “occupied” a park. Unfortunately, everything is “occupied” now according to nominators, including Black Friday Promotions and Thanksgiving. Unless the lock on the porta-john says “occupied,” it might be time to give this word a rest. Might I suggest economic protesters adopt “squat” in the meantime?

Left unchecked, amazement fatigue could ruin all we hold "amazing."

“Amazing,” however, was number one. And, as a veteran to the word-scorning game, I’m not surprised that at least entry is an adjective for “very good.” Previous winners of my disdain include “awesome” and “decadent,” which had been words du jour for advertisers and public relations firms. As with “awesome,” not everything can be “amazing.” Either every item sold in television truly inspires amazement, or you have the wonder (and mind) of a child.

“Baby bump.” Jesus. Look, I get that the miracle of life is amazing — even if it’s your twentieth time (The Duggars: 19 and one, baby!) — but let’s not encourage tabloid writers to make any further alliterations whenever they catch Britney Spears sporting a beer belly. Besides, I always thought a “baby bump” was mob slang for an abortion.

“Shared sacrifice” is an offender of the Misery Loves Company category. Nobody brings up sharing sacrifices until it’s their turn to do the sacrificing. In the medieval days, this was when the rich dad’s virgin daughter was next in the pit, so he pulled a “family Christmas card,” which is when you sign onto somebody else’s card because you forgot to buy your own. Let’s not dress it up when everybody has to give up a good thing, like Four Loko. It’s not like the FDA was staying up all night drinking.

I was surprised to see “blowback” on the list, until I realized it wasn’t about advocating mutual oral pleasuring. Using “blowback” as a synonym for “pushback” or “resistance” isn’t going to suck this thing for me.

“Man cave” — in my opinion — should have been number one. Guys, if you want your own room with a kegerator and Fatheads on the wall, I’m sure your parents kept your old room just the way you left it. (You might have to move their sex swing out to make room for your race car bed, though.)

We could still “win the future.” It’s just that we need to get more specific, like “go back to the moon” or “give me my rocketpack” instead of using this term that gives every future a trophy, even if it’s one just like our present, now with baby-eating.

I didn’t agree with every new entry on their list, though. For instance, if we ban “ginormous,” then how am I supposed to describe people from Mississippi? And if the current Republican primary line-up isn’t “the new normal,” then why is everyone acting like they’re actual candidates?

And then there are the terms that didn’t make the list, mostly because I didn’t nominate them. It’s at this point that I resort to vocabuvigilantism, which is allowed because this is my turf.

“Home-schooling” is a euphemism. Let’s call this what it really is: political imprisonment. The majority of home-schooled kids aren’t geniuses or special needs kids languishing in poor public school systems. They’re the children of parents who fear hearing facts and opinions they don’t share could undo years of carefully selected brainwashing. Unless your teacher-parent is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dads from Twins, you’re probably not qualified to teach anything.

I'm comfortable making this comparison.

I’m also tired of tigers, sharks, wolves and bears being described as “endangered.” We already have a word for these, and it’s “dangerous.” The English language already suffers from “flammable” and “inflammable”; we don’t need more of them. Even the non-people-eating “endangered” animals gum up the construction of new malls when our old malls are becoming a little too “ethnicky.”

“Artichoke” is disgusting. No food should imply art or choking in their name unless they’re hot dogs or Hot Wheels. Plus, artichokes ruin perfectly good spinach dip. Ladies, I think you’ll agree with me that “artichoke” is the “moist” of foodstuffs.

And I think we’re all aware of “awareness” by this point. Unless you’re introducing an audience to something previously unheard of, like hockey sores or chin dimple cancer, then you’re not raising awareness; you’re fundraising. And this is coming from a guy who grew a mustache for awareness.

Well, that should auld lang syne 2011’s vocab. Tune in next year for a new crop of loser words because, even if we’re not creating jobs, we’re still producing crap.

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9 thoughts on “Cleaning Out the Language Gutters for 2012”

  1. At the end of the day, I could easily live without hearing any more “business speak” words! All associates should be empowered to synergize with this mandate.

  2. Wait, artichokes? I love artichokes, but I love your word scoring. It’s an amazing ginormous list of words that have been overused by homeschooled or politically imprisoned children for too many years.

      1. Why Mr. Snee, who knew you had that conservative streak in you? LOL I guess I have to agree, but I must say, I will never look at a stuffed artichoke again as long as I live.

  3. “Really?” – I can’t believe that didn’t make the list. How often do we hear this one word question in a day? I wish this one would go away with 2011. 🙂

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