Saturday, January 10, 2009

Words That Should Be Thrown Under The Bus

Latest Newspaper Column:

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Lake Superior State University.

Not because of any athletic prowess on the part of the tiny college, way up on the Canadian border in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. And not because of its sterling academic record.

No, what I love about LSSU is its annual tradition of listing words that should be banned from the English language for "misuse, overuse and general uselessness." The list is created each year by folks who flock to the university's Web site to vote on the words that make them nuts. This year's list includes:

"Green." Not the concept per se, but the way every corporation trying to earn some kind of environmental brownie points throws the word carelessly around, as well as variables such as "going green," "building green," "green solutions," etc. "Is anyone buying this nonsense?" one voter asked.

Another word that people have apparently gotten sick of is "maverick." And who can blame them? Even if you were a McCain fan, you have to admit they flogged that word harder than a rented mule.

People were also apparently sick of the whole use of the "Wall Street/Main Street" cliché. "No 'serious' discussion of the crisis can take place without some political figure lamenting the fact that the trouble on Wall Street is affecting 'folks' on Main Street," one voter complained, while another one pointed out the condescension and stereotyping inherent in the phrase: "The recent and continuing financial failings are not limited to 'Wall Street,' nor should one paint business, consumers, and small investors as 'Main Street.'"

In a related peeve, the word "bailout" was given the boot: "Use of emergency funds to remove toxic assets from banks' balance sheets is not a bailout," a voter observed. "When your cousin calls you from jail in the middle of the night, he wants a bailout."

Voters were also sick of "game changer." Every primary was a "game changer." Or some debate or other was a disappointment because it wasn't a "game changer." For God's sake, will someone buy these commentators a thesaurus?

All in all, a good list. But I think they missed a few. My nominees for words and phrases ripe for banishment from the English language:

"Thrown under the bus": This has been overused for years, and it's reaching a crescendo now as various and sundry interest groups complain bitterly that they're being "thrown under the bus" by the Obama administration because his nominees and announced policies aren't -- surprise! -- as far "left" as the Republican shills in the mainstream media had been warning darkly that they would be.

I mean, it's bad enough that wingnuts bought into that blarney. Gullibility and an insatiable appetite for outrage are, after all, the very things that define the American Right. But liberals are supposed to be at least smart enough not to believe the Faux-News-enabled idiots who spent the entire election shrieking that "Oh my God, Barack Hussein Obama is the most liberal senator evah!"

Obama is, was, and always will be a centrist who believes in consensus. That's why he got elected.

It's a little silly to kvetch now because he hasn't announced that he'll legalize gay marriage and medical marijuana or appoint Dennis Kucinich secretary of defense while crushing the Republican Caucus beneath his Boots of Librul Doom.

I'm a good bit more liberal than Obama, but I made my peace with that early on. The only thing more annoying is that some of the same idiots who were braying that Obama was a "leftist" are now smugly gloating that "he's not really a liberal! He threw you libs under the bus!"

And while we're at it, can we dump the silly use of "leftist" for anyone even slightly more liberal than the person speaking? I mean, when a former member of the Swift Boat Vets referred to John McCain as a "leftist," was there any doubt that the word had lost all meaning?

We should also have a law against using the words "socialist," "Marxist," or "fascist" by anyone, of any political persuasion, who cannot define, in a paragraph or less, the differences among those philosophies.

"Blame Game": I really, really never want to hear these words again. Here's a hint: The guy or gal saying "let's not play the blame game" is most likely the one to blame.

"Baby Bump": This tabloid cliché, meant to imply that a well-known female might be expecting, sets my teeth on edge. Every time a female celebrity goes out in a bikini or short shirt and shows a little roundness in the tummy, it's "Baby bump? Baby bump?" If she even appears in loose-fitting clothing, it's "Is she hiding a baby bump?" It's bad enough that the tabloids are so fascinated with the whelping habits of empty-headed glitterati, but getting this cutesy about it ought to be punishable by flogging.

Remember: Only you can prevent these crimes against our language. Thanks to the folks at Lake Superior State University for leading the fight.

9 comments:

Tom Panek said...

I can think of a few other words and phrases that need to go. One is the phrase, "if you will." What is with that? What "if I won't?"

Another one that thankfully seems to have already exited our lexicon, is "unliquidity." However, given our current economy, it could raise its ugly head again. There are more and more of us who are becoming "unliquid" every day.

I'm sure I'll be back with more. I need caffeine first.

Tom Panek said...

I can think of a few other words and phrases that need to go. One is the phrase, "if you will." What is with that? What "if I won't?"

Another one that thankfully seems to have already exited our lexicon, is "unliquidity." However, given our current economy, it could rear its ugly head again. There are more and more of us who are becoming "unliquid" every day.

I'm sure I'll be back with more. I need caffeine first.

Caveat said...

I agree with the ones you've noted.

I'd like to see a total ban on using nouns as verbs. The recent use of 'transition' that way by the balloon-heads in media infuriates me.

Using adjectives as adverbs, nouns as adjectives, verbs as nouns, singular modifiers with plural nouns - these too should all be banned, especially in broadcast media.

Crabby? Who, me?

Sophie Littlefield said...

Green? Me, I'm sick of the concept. My son and I saw a t-shirt in berkeley: "I HATE THE ENVIRONMENT"....dang, I want that t-shirt!!!!

JD Rhoades said...

Well, I like breathing, and you need clean water to make good beer, so I can live with the idea of protectinbg the environment.

Caveat said...

Hey, guess what. 'Transition' is used as a transitive verb.

I stand corrected, but still hate it.

Mike said...

Well, if BHO didn't throw the progressives under the bus, he was certainly less than candid when he tried to differentiate himself from HRC.

As I recall, in several of the 983 debates during the primary season, he said that he represented change and HRC didn't. Two observations:

1: Anyone who could deliver something that approaches competent leadership would represent change from the GWB administration, and:

2: His cabinet and sub-cabinet picks don't look markedly different from what HRC's picks would have been (with the obvious exception of SOS).

I think that there was a large component of BHO supporters who did in fact expect him to govern from the left. I say this with some certainty, since I encountered plenty of them at my state's caucus.

BTW, if you've never been through the caucus process, count your blessings.

Zoë Sharp said...

Hi Dusty

Just visiting.

My favourite made-up-for-TV-sports word?

'Medalling' Grr.

Not as in 'to interfere unnecessarily' but as used by Olympic commentators.

As in, "There's no chance of the British team medalling in this event."

I have to go now, even talking about it is bringing on one of my bad heads ... ;-]

Tom Panek said...

I thought of another phrase that makes me puke - "durable and sustainable." What the hell is a durable peace proposal? I just can't get my mind around that.