They are words that some say are overused, misused or simply useless, and viral seems to be the biggest offender.
Michigan’s Lake Superior State University features the term linked to popular online video clips in its annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. The 2011 list, compiled by the university from nominations submitted from across North America throughout the year, was released Friday.
Nominators did more than vanquish “viral.” They also repudiated Sarah Palin’s “refudiate,” flunked “fail” and weren’t at all wowed by “wow factor.” In all, 14 words or phrases made the cut to be, well, cut from conversation. The others were epic, a-ha moment, backstory, BFF, man up, mamma grizzlies, the American people, I’m just sayin’, Facebook/Google as verbs, and live life to the fullest.
The call to banish viral was vociferous, garnering more nominations than any other.
“This linguistic disease of a term must be quarantined,” Kuahmel Allah of Los Angeles wrote in his submission. “If one more thing goes viral, I’m buying a Hazmat suit and moving into a clean-room.”
Seconded Lawrence Mickel of Coventry, Conn.: “Any mindless stunt or vapid bit of writing is sent by its creators whirling around the Internet and, once whirled, its creators declare it (trumpets here) ‘viral!’ Enough already!”
Lake Superior State spokesman Tom Pink said viral’s death spiral mirrors the trajectory of the typical YouTube clip that becomes a momentary sensation and thus goes viral.
“It starts out small, then grows and people get sick of it because they start hearing it everywhere,” Pink said.
He said it’s among a few entries on the list sentenced to the dialectical dungeon that “have to do with the way we communicate these days.” Another: Facebook or Google used as a verb.
Other entries showed people’s apparent aversion to simple language, hence the call to “live life to the fullest” when they could just live, promoting every foible or stumble to “fail,” or super-sizing every reasonably good time to an “epic” event.
“Standards for using `epic’ are so low, even `awesome’ is embarrassed.” said Mike of Kettering, Ohio, whose submission came with no last name.
Appropriately, Pink stopped short of describing this year’s batch of submissions as “epic.” Rather, he viewed it as solid and typical – based on more than 1,000 nominations, once he and his colleagues sorted out phrases previously banned in the list’s 36-year history.
For all the words coming in for a “shellacking,” he was surprised President Barack Obama’s endlessly dissected term to describe his party’s performance in November’s mid-term elections didn’t merit one vote.
Still, Washington-speak made an appearance. Several American people vetoed the phrase “The American People.”
“No one in Washington can pontificate for more than two sentences without using it,” wrote Dick Hilker of Loveland, Colo. “Beyond overuse, these people imply that ‘The American people’ want/expect/demand all the same things. They don’t.”
Not all phrases must go viral to be reviled. “I’m just sayin”’ festered for a while in the lexicon before coming up for banishment this year.
“Obviously you are saying it – you just said it!” wrote Catherine Wilson of Granger, Ind.
But those who just want to keep on saying the words or phrases that made the annual list can take heart. Although it does bring attention to the school in Sault St. Marie – the last stop before Michigan’s northernmost border crossing with Canada – it doesn’t really change the way people talk. After all, “tweet” and “sexting” made last year’s list. And other previously banished items have included “carbon footprint” (2008), “LOL” (2004) and “state of the art” (1993).
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)