Banished words 2007

January 9, 2008

In keeping w/ my perennial new year’s resolution to be a better writer, which by extension includes being a better blogger, I am going to take Lake Superior State University’s list of words to be banished in 2008 to heart and attempting to nix them from my working vocabulary. I first heard about this story on a new year’s day talk show that I watched in a motel room in Traverse City, and I was thrilled to find out that the complete list is available online. Highlights of what NOT to say in ’08 include:

Perfect storm (I have to agree–let’s keep this term reserved for actual weather, okay?)

Webinar (oh thank you Jay-sus, that word is the scourge of the library science student)

Author/authored (as a verb–the commenter here “wonders if it would be correct to say that someone ‘paintered’ a picture?”)

Surge (I agree w/ this commenter: “From Iraq to Wall Street to the weather forecast – ‘surge’ really ought to recede”

And some are just plain hard to let go, but when I think about it for a second, it’s just time to stop saying:

BLANK is the new BLANK

Random

Back in the day

But there is probably no single phrase I’d like to see terminated more than:

It is what it is.

Ach! What a piece of non-language. As one commenter on the list says, “It means absolutely nothing.” The abuse of English in this sentence alone is enough to get me riled, but what has really bothered me ever since I was first exposed to this saying in 2005 is that it seems to generally be used by people who are stuck in a bad situation and refuse to do anything to understand why that bad situation came about or what they might do to change it. It signifies an emotional quagmire that the speaker is so traumatized by that they have lost the ability to even be angry or sad about it. It’s not even at the level of “we’ll make the best of it.” Very few situations (eg the Iraq War, the abandonment of New Orleans after Katrina, the mortgage crisis) are what they are without someone, somewhere along the line having helped them get that way, and while it may be painful to realize that you are suffering from someone else’s bad decision, it is important to keep in mind that the only way it’s going to get better is if we try to understand why rather than simply being a resigned observer of what is. Sorry, that’s a lot of rant for a little phrase, but it’s upsetting to me when wrongheaded phrases make their way into casual conversation. It does affect how you think and see the world.

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2 Responses to “Banished words 2007”

  1. S.O.S Says:

    Oh wow! You must have heard me say “it is what it is” a million times! At least I know I say it a lot…it feels very Zen to me.

    A word to be banished after the primaries: change

    I know it’s a useful word, but with the way it’s tossed around lately, it’s beginning to make me a little nuts.

  2. SJ Says:

    Don’t worry, when you say it, I never notice it, so you must use it in a truly Zen way!


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