Quiet Desperation

What’s the bad word? The gall’s in your court


I am accepting nominations for the first annual Like It Or Not List of Banished Words from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. My list shamelessly but gratefully takes its cue from Lake Superior University’s Annual List of Banished Words, now in its 45th year.

A complete list of their banished words is available online.

It’s likely your word or phrase has been banished in the past. Proceed nevertheless, but provide your own substantiation.

Your entry must include the word or phrase with a brief explanation, your name and your location.

Please submit one and only one entry by 11:59 p.m. on June 4 by emailing it to craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

The English language has taken quite a beating in recent years. Scholars attribute it to many things. For example: tweets, texts, emails and lazy-mindedness.

Further, correct English is not cool. “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” is cool but “Who has the temerity to believe they can best the New Orleans Saints?” is not.

It’s necessary to point out that I am not an expert. John McWhorter is. He could tell you why Nick Charles (“The Thin Man”) spoke of rounding up “sus-PECTS” in 1934 and why Captain Louie Renault (“Casablanca”) spoke of rounding up “SUS-pects” in 1942.

McWhorter teaches this stuff. He is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. He knows etymology without looking it up. I’ve heard him do it.

Next to him, I am a yahoo. But I try, and I love language, even when it is corrupted now and then.

However, there are some words and phrases that drive me to distraction.

I am providing my own list of 10, to get the ball rolling.

1. Like. When used extra-grammatically, it is the most noxious and pervasive word in the English language. Tracing its origin has been as difficult as tracing this little virus that has been going around. It is at least four decades old. Some think it started in the Valley. The San Fernando Valley.

It was once associated with young people. But those young people have aged and have taken it with them.

I am resigned to the likelihood it will never go away in my lifetime.

2. Back in the day. Back in whose day? For someone born in 2001, “back in the day” means something very different than it does for someone born in 1951. There are far better ways to say the same thing.

3. Old school. “Old school” is tired and wants to go to bed.

4. Arguably. “Arguably” is simply an out, a way to qualify a statement without being adamant. It’s wishy-washy.

5. No problem and no worries (tie).

6. Transparency. It shows up in political campaigns and corporate manifestos. It gets used when there’s reason to believe someone isn’t being “transparent.” It has become fingernails on a chalkboard.

7. LOL and its ilk. Anyone who resorts to and relies on such acronyms should be shunned and punished, PDQ.

8. Awesome. “Awesome” is not awesome. Not even close.

9. Sustainable. It sounds virtuous whenever it’s used, and it’s used too often.

10. Icon. Every actor, every musician, every athlete, every notable person in any field is now referred to as an “icon.”

Honorable mention: Have a nice day. Unfelt, unmeant, unwanted.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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