As I write this, I’m awaiting the release of the Lake Superior State University’s Banished Words list for 2015, due to be issued today.
I observed to a friend recently that the list is like crack for word nerds. You know the ones—they twitch when you say “my bad” instead “I’m sorry,” or when you insist on shortening everything to tweetspeak. I know, whatevs.
First issued on New Year’s Eve 1975, the Lake Superior State list banishes overused, misused and useless words and phrases.
Pity those words and phrases don’t actually go away … if only it were that easy! Sadly, “twerking,” “hashtag,” “free gift” and others of their ilk still loiter around, just waiting to insert themselves into an already inane conversation.
Since I can’t talk just yet about that list and I don’t make resolutions, how about delving into some misused and overused words of our own?
Stop the word abuse
Brenda Looper’s multiple columns on the flagrant word abuse, misuse, and general mayhem which routinely occur within newspaper articles, letters to the editor, and by TV pundits, talking heads, politicians, etc., have yet to address my two personal pet peeves.
Namely the misuse of: “anxious” versus “eager.” I would venture that 80 percent to 90 percent of the time when the word anxious is used the person really should be using eager. I won’t bother you with the definitions as you already know them, but in your next column on the subject please attempt to educate the misuser of these words.
“Irregardless” is purportedly an accepted word, but not by me. I agree with the language experts who contend that adding “ir” in front of “regardless” makes it a double negative (one expert called it a double-double negative which creates a really convoluted mess). It just seems so dumb to use a longer word when a shorter and clearer word will do.
Keep up the good work while you are having so much fun and getting paid for it. What a world!
Hot Springs Village
Bob, your wish is my command.
Webster’s notes that someone who is anxious exhibits anxiety or unease, and may be apprehensive. Someone who is eager is feeling or showing keen desire and is impatient for what is to come. Though some dictionaries have loosened their definitions to make the two words somewhat more similar than the traditional sense, it is more correct to use eager when someone, for example, is looking forward to something, and anxious when they’re dreading it. Me? I’m both anxious and eager to see the responses to that.
Another set of words often misused is “convince” and “persuade.” The rule of thumb, per The Associated Press Stylebook, is that someone “may be convinced that something or of something. You must be persuaded to do something.” I’m frankly convinced that most people don’t know the difference or don’t care and won’t be persuaded to use the words correctly.
Eldon Janzen isn’t crazy about overuse of words like “like”—which puts me in the mood to watch Valley Girl, which puts me in the mood to find something better to do with my time. “Athleticism,” “horrific” and other similar overused words also annoy him, and he’s got a point … like, a really good point.
Along the same lines, Don Short is irked by phrases such as “for sure,” “as if” and “Really? Really!” I suggest throwing out the Clueless DVD to start and watching one of the wonderful true-to-the-story adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma, which Clueless was, like, loosely based on. Even Valley talk sounds good when said with a posh British accent.
“Never again,” used as part of a promise after a devastating event that it will never happen again, bothers Joe Tucker, and me too. I think Joe said it best: “I know it must make the speaker feel good, but it is so very disingenuous. Despite all the steps and measures already in place, bad things happen. The best we can do is learn from them and hope that any new measures will lessen the possibility of a repeat, but to say or even infer that ‘it will never happen again’ is just plain ludicrous!” Agreed.
Rolfe Fremstad, a frequent commenter on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette website, noted his distaste for phrases such as “Where is it at?” I concur wholeheartedly, not so much because it puts a preposition at the end of the sentence (no longer quite the grammar sin it once was) but because it’s redundant. We editors like lean copy and fat coffers of chocolate. But that may just be me.
A reader who preferred to remain nameless because of his profession was quite irritated by “now” used as an introductory word rather than a signifier of the present time (as in, “Now he had nothing to say when asked about the goat.”), especially by TV reporters. I can’t argue with that. He was also annoyed by use of the phrases “having said that” and “that being said.” Again, I can’t argue with him, as the phrases are usually unnecessary and often the refuge of writers paid by the word. Have to pad that check somehow …
The wonderful and witty Susan Richards, a fellow blogger and former copy editor (she of the wonderful Pied Type), is not a fan of “cop talk,” especially when used by reporters, such as an event “going down” rather than occurring, or a suspect being “taken down” rather than arrested. I agree, but “perp walk” is still fun to say (at least for me, but I’m often easily amused). While I’m not a huge fan, cop talk is probably the only jargon I can halfway stomach, if just because it doesn’t include such gems as “synergy” and “monetize.” Nothing can make those words interesting.
And the lovely Sarah Ricard, fellow blogger (of Cheaper than Therapy), freelance editor, student, graduate assistant, mom and all-around superwoman, is bugged by many of the same things that irritate me, including the phrase “due to the fact.” What was that I said about editors and lean copy?
In the course of a day, I run across a lot of words and phrases that grate on my nerves … in letters, columns, news stories, blogs, ads, etc. If you hear thuds coming from downtown Little Rock, that just might be my head on the desk. Or it might be the flying pig hitting the wall. (You think I’m joking …)
A problem I see a lot of is conflation of innocuous words or concepts into something meriting a DUN-DUN-DUN after them, such as violation of rights as persecution. While violation of rights can be persecution when it involves death, torture, exile, etc., refusing service to someone based on race, creed, color, sex or orientation is not persecution.
It can be, however, discrimination, which would be a violation of civil rights. A legal minefield, yes; persecution, no, so please save the drama for something that truly deserves it. I hear the cable networks are always on the lookout for exploitable drama.
“In his/her own words”: When I see this phrase or something like it, it usually means that what follows are the words/misinterpretations of the writer (or sometimes his preferred “news” source), not who he’s supposedly quoting. Rarely are they actually the words uttered by that person, and putting them in quotes does not mean it’s true. We would do well to remember the maxim that a writer is only responsible for what he writes, not what you read. Feel free to misinterpret that …. starting … NOW!