Happy new year. Now let’s get busy and banish some words and phrases from the English language that have become annoying.
It’s at this time each year that the folks at Lake Superior State University issue their list of “Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.”
It isn’t just a list created by some eggheads in a university ivory tower. Suggestions for words to be included come from all over the world.
Let’s begin with my favorite from the 2018 list:
“Fake news” — The compliers had this explanation: “Once upon a time, stories could be empirically disproved. Now ‘fake news’ is any story you disagree with.”
Now on with the 2018 list in the order its creators intended.
“Unpack” — Misused word for analyze, consider, assess. Concepts or positions are not packed, so they don’t need to be unpacked.
“Tons” — Refers to an exaggerated quantity, as in tons of sunshine or tons of work. “Lots” would surely suffice.
“Dish” — As in to dish out the latest rumor on someone. Let’s go back to “talks about” and leave dishes in the cupboard.
“Pre-owned” — What is so disgraceful about owning a used car now and then?
“Onboarding / Offboarding” — Creature from the HR Lagoon. We used to have hiring, training and orientation. Now we need to have an “onboarding” process. Firings, quitting and retirements are streamlined into “offboarding.”
“Nothingburger” — Says nothing that “nothing” doesn’t already. I’ll take a quarter-pound of something in mine.
“Let that sink in” — One could say shocking, profound or important. Let that sink in.
“Let me ask you this” — Wholly unnecessary statement. Just ask the question already.
“Impactful” — A frivolous word groping for something “effective” or “influential.”
“Covfefe” — An impulsive typo, born into a 140-character universe, somehow missed by the autocorrect feature.
“Drill Down” — Instead of expanding on a statement, we “drill down on it.”
“Hot water heater” — Hot water does not need to be heated. “Water heater” or “hot water maker” will keep us out of hot water.
“Gig Economy” — Gigs are for musicians and stand-up comedians. Now expanded to imply a sense of freedom and a lifestyle that rejects tradition in a changing economic culture. Runs a risk of sharecropping.
Over the years, nearly 900 entries have been published. To see the whole list, go to: www.lssu.edu/banished-words-list/banished-word-list-archive/.
A word of warning: Be tactful in pointing out to someone that they have just used a banished word. A co-worker once said he was having trouble with his hot water heater.
I said, you have a hot water heater? Yeah, he said.
For some reason, I couldn’t keep myself from saying, “If you have hot water, why do you heat it?” My friend didn’t speak to me for a week.
Later I found out there is such a thing as a hot water heater. An instant-on water heater used by another friend in his Colorado cabin heats the water only a certain number of degrees, which isn’t enough.
So he has installed two of them in series so that the heating process in the first one can be finished in the second.
Contact Mike Hall at email@example.com.