Popular Culture

Banish the 'Banished Word' List

Stop whining about pop culture terminology

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Still not outraged.
MTV

It's Groundhog Day for Lake Superior State University. Ignored by all 364 days a year, the college gets attention for a day as newsrooms find themselves short of actual things to report in newspapers and broadcasts due to the holidays. LSSU produces the annual list of "banished words." It gets national attention for what is essentially a list created by people bitching about popular culture.

The list, compiled from nominations sent to LSSU throughout the year, is released each year on New Year's Eve. It dates back to Dec. 31, 1975, when former LSSU Public Relations Director Bill Rabe and some colleagues cooked up the whimsical idea to banish overused words and phrases from the language. They issued the first list on New Year's Day 1976. Much to the delight of word enthusiasts everywhere, the list has stayed the course into a fourth decade.

Through the years, LSSU has received tens of thousands of nominations for the list, which is closing in on its 1,000th banishment.

This year's list is culled from nominations received mostly through the university's website. Editors of the list consider pet peeves from everyday speech, as well as from the news, fields of education, technology, advertising, politics and more. A committee makes a final cut in late December.

This year's choices range from the obvious ("selfie," twerking," "hashtag") to the political ("intellectually/morally bankrupt," "obamacare") to weird inclusions that must have been pushed through by a committee member with a grudge ("T-bone"? What the hell?).

LSSU's site offers a full archive of each year's list. It's an interesting, but frankly a bit tiresome, look at Americans' seething resentments toward each other, as expressed through shifts in colloquial language. I find this year's list particularly awful – not the words themselves, but rather that they were chosen. Previous lists have included words or phrases that are actually problematic in that they were often used to mislead or obscure or were used in a contradictory fashion or just tossed around recklessly, terms like "transparency" (2010),  "maverick" (2009), "sanitary landfill" (2004), "paradigm" (1994), "mandate" (1985), and one of my own least favorite words, "dialogue" (1976, their very first list).

But this year's list is really just all about griping about kids shaking their asses and posting pictures of themselves on the Internet. It's not so much of a collection of loathsome words as a collective "Get off our lawn!" directed at the dictionary.