Fingernails-on-the-blackboard words

You know what they are. They’re the trendy words, the trendy phrases, the pop-speak that often represents slothful thinking and sloppy use of the English language, the words and phrases that MIGHT be clever the first time they’re used but lose their cleverness, their cuteness, and their attractiveness with each use. They’re words that generate an increasing cringe factor with each repitition.
We are indebted each year to Lake Superior State University for compiling the list of words that should be or should have been banished from public use.
You are likely to see stories in your newspapers or hear stories in various talk shows about the 2014 list, just released. What is seldom mentioned is something about LSSU itself. So let’s pause for a few moments before going to the list to reflect on a university that seems to have a twinkle in its eye.
LSSU, Michigan’s smallest public university, is in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, a place the Yoopers call “The Soo.” Yoopers are people from the UP, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a place between two of the Great Lakes, Michigan and Superior, where winter is a big and accepted part of life, unlike the winters here in Missouri that are mostly a huge. slick, and often sloppy inconvenience. (This reporter’s father-in-law, who grew up in the Lake Superior shoreline town of Munising, once recalled that shoppers had to tunnel their way through the snow to get to the front doors of businesses.)
Anyway, you have to kind of like the spirit of a university that has a ritual burning of a snowman at high noon on the first day of Spring.
This is a university that has a fish cam. Really. A fish cam. If you go to the site today and click on “ARL Fishcam” you can see all of the exciting things going on in the school’s sturgeon tank. It is at least as intellectually stimulating as watching people hunt alligators, promote duck calls, or bid on junk in storage bins. And there are no commercials.
LSSU is a university that sanctioned unicorn hunters. That’s where this whole “banished words” thing began. The school website says, “The Unicorn Hunters made the news often for activities and events including: the annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness, burning a snowman on the first ay of spring, World Sauntering Day, International Stone-Skipping Tournament held annually on Mackinac Island, Unicorn Questing Season and Teacher Thank You Week.” The Unicorn Hunters faded away when their creator, PR genius Bill Rabe, retired more than 25 years ago. But their legacy is still strong in the spirit of this university.
The first list of banned words came out in 1976. Since then, the school has accepted public nominations for additions to the list. This year’s list, with the most (un) popular words or phrases first:
1. Selfie
2. Twerk/Twerking
3. Hashtag
4. Twittersphere
5. Mister Mom
6. T-Bone (as it traffic crash)
7. ______ on steroids
8. Suffering suffixes (specifically anything ending in “ageddon” or “pocalypse.”)
Two entries come from politics:
9. Intellectually/morally bankrupt
10. Obamacare
And from the sports world:\
11. Adversity
12. Fan base
You can review the list and the comments that go with the words at: You can also read how to submit your own words for the 2015 list.
These annual lists also are continuing records of the social and political history of our country because they are tied to the events and the trends of the times. The first list, 1976, was:
1. At this point in time, a phrase that gained fame in the Watergate hearings.
2. Meaningful
3. Input (the opposite of output, followed later by the egregious “throughput.” or even worse, “thruput.”)
4. Scenario, another Watergate-born verbal irritation)
5. Detente (A buzz word from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger)
6. Dialogue (the list noted that word number two on the list often preceded it, making both meaningless)
7. Macho
8. Implement and viable (which the list compiler considered “gobbledygook disguised as intelligence.”)
9. Call for resignation
This was the list compiled by the Unicorn Hunters who also suggested it was time to restore the word “mugient” to the language. Their list said it was a word that “fell into disuse in the 17th century…It was most appropriate for use in the 1976 election year.” It means “to bellow as a cow.”
You can find all of the lists at the LSSU website. They make for some interesting and sometimes embarrassing reading.
We’re glad we checked the 1976 list of words. The legislative session starts in just a few days and 2014 is an election year. “Mugient” might be a good word to remember as we cover those events.

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