Did you hear that sound last Wednesday? It was a collective sigh of relief from word nerds everywhere upon the release of Lake Superior State University’s 2015 list of banished words. (Thanks, guys, for making me wait a week to write about it for the column! 😛 )
You might have also heard a few “what the hecks,” too, especially if you were in central Arkansas.
Silly university; it’s “cray-cray,” not “cra-cra.” The powers that be, though, can’t take all the blame for that one, as many nominations are made by the public, and apparently those nominating “cra-cra” were isolated from the rest of the Internet.
Pity those of us trying to sound it out before realizing what was meant. Pity even more those who believe such slang constitutes proper English, even if the online Oxford Dictionary has deigned to add “cray,” “adorbs” and “amazeballs,” among other linguistic detritus.
Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I did a Google check, which showed that the bulk of the 385,000 hits for “cra-cra” seem to be reports on the list or for organizations with the acronym CRA. “Cray-cray,” on the other hand, is more popular, with 580,000 results, many more of them unique instances. Take away the quotation marks, though, and it reverses a bit, with 7.8 million hits for cra-cra and 3.4 million for cray-cray; however, the bulk of the cra-cra hits are still from the story or CRA groups. What does that prove? Nothing, but I have to amuse myself somehow.
A few more from the university’s 40th list, along with selected comments from nominators:
Bae—One of the top nominees, according to the university, and tagged “the most annoying term of affection to show up in years” by Blan Wright of Sugar Hill, Ga. Ostensibly meant to stand for “before anyone else,” its origin story is in dispute, but having now been co-opted by marketers from companies like IHOP, AT&T and Pizza Hut, it may be time to get its eulogy ready. Or just use The Atlantic’s James Hamblin’s “bae” obit from last week.
Polar vortex—“Wasn’t it called ‘winter’ just a few years ago?” asked Dawn Farrell of Kanata, Ontario. Yep. Or just freakin’ cold. Are my lips turning blue? (All right, considering the forecast this week, that could happen, so let me know, OK?)
Hack—No, not what the cat does in your shoe in the middle of the night, but what once was called a “tip” or “helpful hint.” Actually, I’d be OK with getting rid of both hacks. And take away professional hacks while you’re at it.
Skill set—I really can’t say it more clearly than did Chip Lupo of Columbia, S.C.: “Why use two words when one will do? We already have a perfectly good word in ‘skills’ (ending with an s, not a z).” Besides, you’ll never hear anyone say, “I got mad skill set.” If you do, smack them, both for the jargon and the bad grammar.
Foodie—I’m starting to suspect that some of my snarkier relatives may be among the commenters. Andy Poe of Marquette, Mich., sounds an awful lot like he could have some DNA in common with me: “‘Someone who enjoys food’ applies to everyone on Earth. What’s next? ‘Oh, I’m an airie; I just love to breathe.’ ‘Could we do it at 11, instead? I’m kind of a sleepie.’”
Personally, I’m a chocolatie. And a funnie. And a cattie …
Curate/Curated—This is one that sticks in my craw more than a little bit. It has significance when applied to the arts, but when used, for example, for a collection of catnip toys, balls and crunchy treats, it loses any impact it had and just sounds pretentious. OK, for some cats it might be appropriate … but not mine. He’s not exactly pretentious, especially when he gets a snootful of catnip.
Friend-raising—One I hadn’t heard before, but definitely one I don’t care to hear again. When you’re trafficking on bosom buddies to raise money for some fatuous want, it’s just one more blow to the concept of friendship. Even for noble causes like disease research, it strains my patience.
Takeaway—When used by Brits to describe takeout food, it doesn’t annoy me. Frankly, if it’s said in a British accent, a lot of things don’t annoy me. However, when it’s used to mean knowledge (“What’s the takeaway?” rather than “What did we learn?”), it grates.
“Swag,” “enhanced interrogation” and “-nation” (usually a sports-related suffix) also made the list, and are more than welcome to exit stage right with the rest of these. While they’re at it, they can take along such gems as “all-time record,” “baby bump,” “I’m just sayin’” and “to be perfectly honest,” which still hang around long after their banishment. That’d be great, thanks!
And a few readers offered some more words that just might end up on future lists (and some that have already been banished but refuse to go away). Sports terms such as “positive yards,” “negative yards,” and “trickeration” ruffle David Kelley’s feathers, while “going forward” makes Karl Hansen gag. And like Philip Warner, misuse of “founder” and “flounder” drive me nuts.
Here’s a B. Looper column with which I can finally agree, as it grates on my nerves, too, when folks ignore the meanings of “convince” and “persuade” and use them interchangeably and incorrectly.
Ditto for “founder” and “flounder,” and I also flinch when I hear the misuse of “momentarily” on TV broadcasts, as in “We’ll be back momentarily.” I always hope they actually mean momentarily and that I’ll be spared further aggravation by a very brief reappearance to segue to something else, but alas, they always come back after the commercials and drone on.
I could happily spend the rest of my life without hearing the phrases “comfortable in his/her own skin” and “baby bump,” and how many times have you heard news reporters refer to an event as “unspeakable” and then speak on for a quarter of an hour describing every aspect of the unspeakable occurrence in graphic detail.
It is sad to see our English language, with its many precise meanings and nuances, diluted and abused by those too lazy to appreciate the differences.
I am reminded of a story about the great 18th Century English lexicographer and essayist, Samuel Johnson, who was said to have been verbally accosted by a woman who said to him, “Mr. Johnson, you smell!” to which he replied, “No, madam, you smell, I stink.”
To everyone, especially those who make their living in the media, please pick up a dictionary now and then and make an effort to avoid misusing our rich language.
Have ones that bug you? Send ’em on!
It should come as no surprise that the harshest critic I have is myself. Every spelling or grammar error I make hurts, even when readers don’t notice it. I’m still kicking myself over a subject-verb disagreement in my lead paragraph last week (caught the next morning, so it’s only correct on my blog). A small thing, but annoying.
I hold myself to a higher standard than I do anyone else. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ll let just anything on the page, even when letters are running low (like now … Arkies, send me stuff, please!). Those of you sending viral emails or letters with chunks of someone else’s unattributed work … naw, they’re not going through. And as staffing is stretched thin, creating a backup no matter how many letters we have, if we can’t find needed documentation and ask for it, please provide it. That’s often the only thing holding up certain letters.
We’re adults here and not out to get anyone, so leave the name-calling and bad attitude for someone who actually deserves it.
The aim here is to provide you with an informative and/or entertaining page. Most days that happens, and with your help, it’ll keep happening.
Well, what do you know … I still had a pair of cranky pants hanging around.