Saturday, January 1, 2011

Words We Can Live Without!

Apparently the good folks - known as the Unicorn Hunters - at Lake Superior State University (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) issue a list each year of words that we need to drop from the English language - at least, the American version of it - for "mis-use, over-use and general use-lessness". This is the 36th year that LSSU has produced this list, and this year they received more than 1,000 entries. And, the winners - along with some of the nominating statements - are:

Viral - ok in medical usage, but way overdone in referring to things "going viral" in cyberspace. "This linguistic disease of a term needs to be quarantined." I don't really care one way or the other about this one.

Epic - "Cecil B. DeMille movies are epic. Internet fallouts and opinions delivered in caps-lock are not. 'Epic fail,' 'epic win', 'epic (noun)' -- it doesn't matter; it needs to be banished until people recognize that echoing trite, hyperbolic Internet phrases in an effort to look witty or intelligent actually achieves the opposite." I've been sleeping. Hadn't noticed this one.

Fail - "Fail is not a noun. It is not an adjective. It is a verb. If this word is not banned, then this entire word banishment system is full of FAIL." Missed this one, too.

Wow factor - "This buzzword is served up with a heaping of cliché factor and a side order of irritation." A friend of mine used to use this a lot - three years ago - but I seldom hear it now. I'd keep this one.

Ah-ha Moment - "All this means is a point at which you understand something or something becomes clearer. Why can't you just say that?" Same friend, same comment. Don't mind this one.

Back Story - "This should be on the list of words that don't need to exist because a perfectly good word has been used for years. In this case, the word is 'history,' or, for those who must be weaned, 'story.'" I'm with them on this one. "History" is a good word!

BFF - Well, I think I like this one, but then I don't hang out with many teenagers. I suspect that those of you who do, will feel differently. But, it is definitely over-used.

Man Up - "Another case of 'verbing' a noun and ending with a preposition that goes nowhere. Not only that, the phrase is insulting, especially when voiced by a female, who'd never think to say, 'Woman up!'" I couldn't agree more. I hate it when someone tries to make a verb out of a noun, or vice versa.

Refudiate - "Adding this word to the English language simply because a part-time politician lacks a spell checker on her cell phone is an action that needs to be repudiated". Well, first we need to strip away the political bias here, but then he has a point. There is a perfectly good real word!

Mama Grizzlies - "Unless you are referring to a scientific study of Ursus arctos horribilis, this analogy of right-wing female politicians should rest in peace." I find it as demeaning as "soccer moms" in a previous decade. Let it go.

The American People - "These politicians in Congress say 'the American People' as part of what seems like every statement they make!" The one thing that we absolutely know is that "the American People" never agree on anything. For anyone to claim to represent the ideas of us all, is ludicrous. Dump the expression!

I'm Just Sayin' - "'A phrase used to diffuse any ill feelings caused by a preceded remark,' according to the Urban Dictionary." Wow - I love this one. You'll have to decide for yourself.

Facebook/Google used as verbs -
"As bad as they are, the trend can only get worse, i.e. 'I'm going to Twitter a few people, then Yahoo the movie listings and maybe Amazon a book or two." Well, I totally agree with this. I hate changing nouns into verbs - it's lazy!

So, there's the list from LSSU. I think they have some good points, but the list does not include the word I want totally dropped.

It's "impact" used when you really want "affect". "Impact" (as a verb) means to strike forcefully or to impinge. As a noun it means a forceful contact or collision. Over the past 10 years or so, we have started using both the verb and the noun to mean affect, or have an affect on. It is losing the sense of force and collision - you know, like a car crash! Drives me crazy. So, just for me could you, would you, please, knock off with the "impact"? Thanks!


  1. May I add the plural form "freedoms." I don't know why this bothers me, but it does. I am working on an essay called "we already have a word for that." Thanks for the tip.

  2. Yipes! You were up early! Great blog. I love language and, as a former technical writer and non-native English speaker, I have a few of these words myself. Eg, do you know what happened to the word "fewer"? Now it "less mistakes". Argh! And by the way, in southern AZ it is "cowboy up" (never "cowgirl up"), rather than man-up, but you get the drift.