Begone, ‘post-truth’!

The furry one has spoken, so it must be done. Image of the prettiest cat in the world (he makes me say that) enhanced on BeFunky.

The furry one has spoken, so it must be done.
Image of the prettiest cat in the world (he makes me say that) enhanced on BeFunky.

Every New Year’s Eve, I wait impatiently for one thing … and it ain’t the ball-drop. No, I wait for the Lake Superior State University List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

This time I really hoped to see my biggest pet peeve of 2016—“special snowflake”—but was disappointed. Who wouldn’t want to eradicate this in-vogue insult? Oh, that’s right, that would be the online comment board/forum denizens who, rather than address the issues brought up by people with whom they disagree, accuse them of being whining “special snowflakes” and offer them coloring books, a blankie and cocoa.

Yep, this is not just on college campuses; the easily offended are everywhere. Editorial cartoon by J.D. Crowe, Alabama Media Group.

Yep, this is not just on college campuses; the easily offended are everywhere.
Editorial cartoon by J.D. Crowe, Alabama Media Group.

Once the argument was that as soon as someone flippantly mentioned Hitler or the Nazis, the discussion was essentially over since they had nothing of substance to add. I believe the highly unoriginal “snowflake” insult, one I’ve been seeing just about everywhere, has usurped Hitler’s place (and I’m sure he’s not happy about that). As cartoonist Clay Jones recently posted on his blog (channeling these lovely unimaginative bullies): “What’s the matter, Sunshine? Not smart enough to think of your own derogatory terms?”

Nope, and they really don’t like it when someone calls them “snowflakes.” That’s just so mean! And they gave away all the cocoa, coloring books and blankies!

Now these are special snowflakes, and they don't need cocoa, coloring books or cocoa. Image found on The Keys to December.

Now these are special snowflakes, and they don’t need cocoa, coloring books or a blankie.
Image found on The Keys to December.

When they’re offended, it’s righteous indignation. When someone they disagree with is offended, that person’s a whining snowflake. Yeesh. (Yeah, I think we know who’s more likely to be offended.)

Yes, we have a generation or two (or three) that can’t take venturing outside their safe space where they can listen to only those things that agree with their worldviews. They’re not snowflakes, though; they’re entitled, coddled, woefully misinformed and easily offended. If you must name-call, call them that and leave the fluffy white stuff alone.

While Lake Superior State ignored the usurpation of the word for ice crystals that fall from the sky, it did take on some of the more annoying words of the past year, including the one Oxford Dictionaries named word of the year: “post-truth.” Oxford defines the adjective as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Truth? Seriously? Has the man ever said anything truthful? Image found on Toronto Star.

Truth? Seriously? Has the man ever said anything truthful?
Image found on Toronto Star.

For people like me who actually care about facts, it’s frightening that we’ve come to a time when we can’t even agree on what facts are, and they don’t seem to matter at all. As Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said (and the list invoked), you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. But I guess, in a post-truth world …

Other words and phrases chosen for banishment include “bigly” (What? No yuuuuge?), “echo chamber,” “town hall meeting,” “guesstimate” and “historic.” Other equally (sometimes more) annoying words and phrases included “listicle” (one of the reasons I usually don’t post lists), “on fleek,” and “ghost” (not the movie or Caspar the Friendly). Now if only these annoyances were actually banished.

You can read the full list here.

Doctor Who doesn't want you to say that. Please replace all banished words with "Allons-y" (addition of "Alonzo" is up to you). GIF found on mrwgifs.

Doctor Who doesn’t want you to say that. Please replace all banished words with “Allons-y” (addition of “Alonso” is up to you).
GIF found on mrwgifs.

In anticipation of the list being released, I asked my colleagues for words they’d like to banish. Many of the responses included words already on past lists, such as “went missing,” “hack,” and “manspreading” and its many man- cousins. One did guess one of the latest list’s words (fleek). Others I was surprised hadn’t made it on any previous lists, such as “vacay” and other cutesy shortenings of words that TV writer Michael Storey said made his “toes curl when I hear it.”

Our ActiveStyle editor, Michael’s wife Celia, on the other hand, wasn’t having any of that:

“I don’t believe that we’re well served by ‘banning’ colorful coinages or phrases simply because they’ve caught the popular imagination. These smug annual listmakers imagine themselves as holding a high ground, standing on some old rock of linguistic righteousness; but with regard to language, strict constructionism floats on quicksand.

“Playing with words is an inherently human impulse. Why deny human nature the joy of word play?

Wordplay can be fun ... but it can also be a crutch. Image found on TomperWomper DeviantArt.

Wordplay can be fun … but it can also be a crutch for some.
Image found on TomperWomper DeviantArt.

“Instead of merely denouncing this or that supposedly wretched coinage, the offended should explain their objection. What harm, exactly, does using the phrase do or threaten to do? What better way of conveying the same meaning already exists? We should aim to be helpful, in other words.

“If the complaint is overuse, say so, but don’t imagine that our noticing we’ve heard it a lot means anyone who chooses to use it has inferior taste or a lazy mind.”

Though anyone using “snowflake” around me to refer to someone with whom they disagree (rather than hexagonal ice crystals) should be prepared to be banished. Or at least sat upon by a very large cat with gas, sharp claws, and a bad attitude.

Assistant Business Editor Jim Kordsmeier wants to get rid of “‘brick and mortar’ when writers/reporters mean ‘store’ or ‘shop’. … Very few stores or shops have actual brick and mortar in them anyway. More like aluminum and drywall. I’d be more OK with ‘tin and gypsum.’ And ‘unicorn’ anything. Bah.”

Plus, like all myths, unicorns are kinda smelly. Strange Brew by my buddy John Deering.

Like all myths, unicorns are kinda smelly.
Strange Brew by my buddy John Deering.

His issue with “unicorn” is that it’s being used improperly by business writers: Startups valued at $1 billion or more are no longer myth, but unicorns still are. I probably shouldn’t tell him that the group that compiles the Lake Superior State banished-word list each year is called Unicorn Hunters.

News clerk C.B. Byrd would like to banish “the use of the phrase ‘enough said,’ usually done digitally on Facebook in reference to an opinion-based statement (though I have heard it said out loud), and sometimes attached to a photo that doesn’t actually say anything. It’s almost like the person is participating in an argument that nobody else is aware of, and this is his culminating point, after which he says ‘enough said’ as if simultaneously declaring the imaginary argument over and himself the victor.”

Gosh, that never happens on online forums. Everyone is so polite and only logical arguments are used rather than fallacious reasoning. And unicorns do exist, dang it. At least in that alternative reality so many people seem to inhabit now.

The best response, though, came from reporter Kenneth Heard, one of my favorite people in the world. Ken’s always made me laugh (sometimes with really bad puns) and he didn’t disappoint in his email.

No potatoes ... yet. Image found on Bemidji State Athletics.

No potatoes … yet.
Image found on Bemidji State Athletics.

“For personal reasons, I’d like to see ‘Lake Superior State University’ banished. When I was a kid growing up in Bemidji, Minn., in the 1960s-1970s, Bemidji State University, where my dad taught music, played Lake Superior State in hockey. I’d go to a lot of the games, but those versus Lake Superior, a hated conference rival at the time, would generally end in fights, and fans would throw potatoes on the ice. I’d be mad because a few games were forfeited and I’d miss the action. But that’s just me.”

I don’t know if it’s just him. Surely at least one of those hockey players dodging ice potatoes would like to see it banished as well.

Besides, potatoes belong in the oven, and then slathered with butter, sour cream and chives. Frozen potatoes don’t taste nearly as good.

Bacon and cheese just makes it that much better. You couldn't do this with an ice potato. Image found on Serious Eats.

Bacon and cheese just make it that much better. You couldn’t do this with an ice potato.
Image found on Serious Eats.


10 thoughts on “Begone, ‘post-truth’!

  1. Not to be snarky but you just added eight tick marks to the tally for “snowflake.” That surely puts it over the top for most over-used word. Ironically, in my lifetime, I have now seen it used in that context exactly eight times. I must have missed a memo.

    New Years Eve, we joined a group of friends in the Village for food, drink, and merry-making. At precisely 9:00 pm, we toasted the new year and went home.A post-youth celebration?

    Finally, while 2017 comes with a warning label, people of good will can still prevail. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” So said Thomas Jefferson. Or Patrick Henry. Or someone else.So much for post-truth (or pre-truth) attributions, but the quotation still rings true.



      Obviously you haven’t checked the comment boards at our paper (Packman, Slak and others love that one) or the Post. I keep getting sucked down the rabbit hole when I read this stuff, marveling at the utter lack of creativity, logic and decorum. Being anonymous, at least in those places, means they don’t care about the consequences of what they say, especially when it’s not true or is nothing but ad hominem attacks. These guys are real winners. 😉

      The only reason I was still awake at midnight is because of all the gunfire. I just don’t get that; I grew up in the country, and we didn’t haul out our guns at midnight. Sheesh. I’m too old for this crap. 😉


  2. I think the term “special snowflake” is insulting to the snow.
    Sometimes it is better to use simple, direct language to communicate instead of trying to be too fancy or pretentious.
    I prefer my potatoes cooked because I would break a tooth or two if I tried to eat a frozen potato.
    As for the last unicorn, I think it may have been shot by a nearsighted hunter who mistook it for a deer with oddly shaped antlers.


    • I heard Jack Frost and Frosty are both ticked off about it. 😉

      Simple usually is much better, and it takes less time if those you’re arguing with don’t have to look got a dictionary.

      Potatoes are definitely better cooked, and I would know since this stomach bug I have right now is only letting me eat toast and potatoes.

      I think you may be right about the unicorn; I can hear his buddies laughing about his rack right now.


  3. One of my uncles and two cousins have been making fun of “snowflakes” on Facebook. I would unfollow them, but then I would miss their cute cat photos. It’s funny how some of the same people who ripped Obama to shreds on social media for eight years take delight in the reactions of those unhappy with Trump’s election. I never gloated when President Obama was elected, and I certainly didn’t make fun of people who weren’t happy with the election results.

    Post-truth scares me about as much as snowflake makes me mad. I have seen otherwise rational friends and relatives dismiss fact-checking that didn’t go their way as biased and unreliable.

    p.s. I hope post-youth catches on.


    • It’s just so great that Trump has normalized this behavior, isn’t it? 😉

      A lot of these guys are insisting that no negative news about Trump should be reported. I think that if Democrats had done the same when Obama was elected, there would have been riots (even though they seem to think no one on the right ever does such a thing). By the way, there’s an excellent piece on stereotyping coming out in Sunday’s Perspective section. Because it’s well-reasoned, it will, of course, offend people. 😉

      I’ve been consciously trying to avoid “post-truth” and have been mostly successful. I won’t avoid post-youth, though; it’s too perfect.


  4. I can’t wait for Sunday’s paper! Next to Wednesday, Sunday is my favorite newspaper day. I’ll be sure to read the Perspective section first. The guest column today was excellent. The author made some great points about productive actions we can take to help make change.

    Since our birthday is coming up next Friday the 13th, I suppose our post-youth is nigh – at least for me anyway since I’m older. I will embrace post-youth like I did the term “vertically challenged” years ago.


    • Well, read the outside pages, anyway … the inside ones might tick you off. 😉

      Back when I was in a writing group (we called ourselves “Writers Bloc”), Dana was in the group. Of course, it’s been years since I’ve had time to do any fiction writing …

      The boy is definitely in his post-youth … he’s being a really cranky old man right now, thinking that I must be better since I was at work for longer today.

      Liked by 1 person

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