So the Lake Superior State University’s list of banished words came out the other day, and the most-nominated word people wish to banish “for misuse, overuse and general uselessness” … is “so.”
Yes, attentive word nerds will know that the word was already banished in 1999, but it’s made a return appearance in the new list because, the university says, it’s being used differently than it was then. In 1999, respondents were so over the word being used so much in the middle of so many snarky comments. (I blame Friends’ Chandler Bing.)
Today it’s because it is “frequently used to begin a sentence, particularly in response to a question; this tiresome and grammatically incorrect replacement for ‘like,’ or ‘um’ is even more irksome … It hurts my ears every single time I hear it!” said nominator Thomas H. Weiss. (Come to think of it, Chandler also started a lot of sentences with “so.” He must be Satan!)
I can’t say that it bugs me that much (and there are several of the offending words that I use, like “so,” because I prefer to write like people talk). I was more offended by the overflowing business jargon that landed on the list—“stakeholder,” “price point,” “presser” and the like—all of which make me gag.
Stakeholder is perhaps the most annoying of those (I think, anyway), used way too often to describe customers or anyone who has an interest in anything. I have to agree with nominator Jeff Baenen, who quipped that “Dr. Van Helsing should be the only stake holder.”
Just please, not the Hugh Jackman version … I can’t believe I actually paid for a ticket for that stinker …
“Vape,” which is what you do when you inhale the vapor of an e-cigarette, also got a mention, which it should have. “Verbing” perfectly innocent nouns should offend word-lovers everywhere, especially when the back-formed word describing the action is as annoying as the action itself.
“Conversation”—as in “join the conversation”—was also a bone of contention, especially as it seems to have replaced words like “debate” and “argument.” Richard Fry noted: “Perhaps the users feel that it is a word that is least likely to offend people, but I consider it to be imprecise language that, over time, dumbs down the art of effective discourse.”
Other bits of jargon, such as “problematic,” “secret sauce” and “walk it back” made the list as well, as did “manspreading” (strangely, “mansplaining” has yet to appear), “giving me life” and “physicality.”
“Break the Internet,” unsurprisingly, made the list, and the university said the phrase “is annoying online word-watchers around the world.” To put a point on that observation, Tim Bednall of Melbourne, Australia, called it “an annoying bit of hyperbole about the latest saucy picture or controversy that is already becoming trite.”
I agree, especially in that so many of the controversies predicted to break the Internet are nothing but trumped-up bits of air and fluff … or in the case of Kim Kardashian’s naked ass, pure hype and lack of taste.
Besides, only cat pictures are capable of breaking the Internet. Put cute kittens in a video and prepare for the apocalypse.
What was again missing (why???), as noted by friend, fellow blogger and birthday buddy Sarah Ricard, was the offense to common sense that is the “trigger warning” (closely related to “microagressions,” a non-favorite of Susan Richards, who blogs as PiedType).
I echo Sarah’s gripe about trigger warnings: “Why has our society become so overly sensitive, weak and wimpy that we need trigger warnings? To me, this phrase is the political-correctness equivalent of using political incorrectness to excuse incivility.”
While there are legitimately some things that need a warning (such as something explicit … or Kim Kardashian’s overhyped ass), most things don’t. You can’t completely avoid anything that might cause trauma, and you certainly shouldn’t just stop reading/watching/listening because something doesn’t fit your worldview. “Microagressions” often just seem like an excuse to get ticked off about the tiniest thing, and smack of political-correctness, which should also be banished to the hinterlands. (C’mon, stop trying to make 1984 happen. It’s not going to happen.)
Reader Bill Polk said one of his primary complaints “is the overuse of superlatives. Everything is super, awesome, magnificent, et al., to the point that nothing is super, awesome, magnificent, et al. There are no superlatives left to express the superlative.”
It’s true that it’s hard to take seriously those who over-employ all those “best ever,” “worst ever,” and “epic” labels. It’s immensely amazing that there aren’t more people suffering from head-smacks from me over it. Hyperbole is just so passé.
It wasn’t all hated words that crossed my desk last week. Reader Jay Fredrich wrote about two of his favorites from childhood, one of which—tump—is among my favorites as well.
“It was a common word for us kids, meaning ‘turn,’ as in: ‘Be careful or you’ll tump over my wagon,’” he wrote. “The second word is ‘stob.’ Again, it was a common word in my childhood, but I can’t recall ever seeing it in print until I saw it a few days ago in Rick Bragg’s new book, My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South. To us kids it meant ‘something short sticking up from the ground,’ as in ‘I tripped over that stob.’
“Those were the days—when tumping over wagons (either accidentally or intentionally) and tripping over stobs (usually a painful experience) were facts of life for children in Little Rock.”
As it was in Dayton (I loved growing up out in the country!) … and I can hope that those words—and the joy in life they evoke for some of us—still live on.
I’ll do my part as soon as I right that tumped-over garbage can in my yard.