A few days ago, a friend of mine sent out an email with this year’s List of Banished Words, as deemed thus by the language lovers over at the Lake Superior State University. The premise, for those of you who haven’t come across it before, is simple: you know the word that gets used any which way and people throw them around like a gold coin in Scrooge McDuck’s vault and you go from noting that hey that’s not what that word actually means to wow that word sure does get thrown around to irritation at the tendency to overuse and incorrectly at that this word to feeling the vein in your head about to pop the next time you hear the word? Well, this is the list that actually tries to “ban” it. Once LSSU has decided which of those words are most pressing.
There are some words on that list whose placement there I agree with wholeheartedly. Like “organic”– I think my brother-in-law (who apprears on this blog as either Steven Koski or Steven Kiosk) first pointed out the silliness of identifying some foods as organic, since, c’mon, they’re always going to be carbon-based. Which is exactly what someone at LSSU points out. Plus, things happen organically, people belong to certain families more organically than others, intellectuals can be organic if they represent of the class they were born into, though do class-mobile intellectuals become inorganic?
Or the phrase “X is the new Y.” I heard a few years ago, for instance, that green was the new pink. I imagined that meant that baby girls were being wrapped in green blankets at the hospital– because where else does pink have any value?– but I’ve checked. Pink is still pink.
But then, I came across “sweet” on the list. That one, I’m not so sure about. Of course, people don’t mean that when a gadget is sweet that it tastes like sugar, but were we ever in danger of assuming that they did? We are, I think, capable of understanding that people are speaking figuratively since we’ve had plenty of practice. We know that not everything that is cool is icy to the touch, or not everything that rocks has a compelling back beat, or, for that matter, not everything that is awesome actually fills us with childlike wonder.
This ties in to an earlier post about words that mean little in themselves, but have a great deal of currency in the work place. Cliches. Personally, I would be happy if we all stopped using “counter-” everything. Counterintuitive, counterproductive, etc. though I really like counterpontal. Maybe we can keep counterpontal. what do you think?