Following up on a conversation about Oxford’s controversial word of the year
from a couple of months ago, your favorite reclusive former internet humorist Jay Pinkerton sent me an unusually verbose one-line missive this morning asking, “Sick of selfie yet? I can ask again in six months.” Gradually becoming increasingly aware that he’d tricked me into essentially writing a blog post, I responded as follows:
I don’t really have a problem with “selfie.” I don’t personally hear it overused, and it’s at least useful in its descriptiveness of a common occurrence. We’d still have selfies if we didn’t have the word, though I’m open to the argument that having a word for it means more of it. Anyway, what I’m really trying to say here is that I don’t want to get rid of the word “selfie.” I just want to get rid of the narcissistic millennials who take them.
That just reminded me that I haven’t checked out Lake Superior State University Banned Words List for this year yet. Since we’re there, let’s briefly look at the rest of the list:
Twerk: I have to say that this one set some kind of land speed record for going from obscurity to ubiquity in mainstream circles. A year ago, I didn’t know it. Nine months ago, I was ashamed to say that I did, or to have anyone look at my YouTube history for the previous three months. Six months ago I was explaining it to my wife, and three months ago I was explaining it to my mother-in-law. One question, though: Didn’t this just to be called booty-shaking? Another question: What was wrong with just calling it booty-shaking?
Hashtag: Ugh. Yes. There’s no reason to ever say this out loud. The hashtag key used to be known as the pound key, and that’s what I want to do to people who say the word out loud: pound them mercilessly. Remember how lame Joe Biden sounded in the 2010 debates saying “That’s a hashtag fail” in a misguided attempt to sound hip and with it? Now I see old people doing the same thing in commercials. Saying “hashtag” aloud is the rapping granny of 2014.
Twittersphere: The layer of hot air immediately above the troposphere. Zing. I’m not totally annoyed, but isn’t “in the Twittersphere” longer than “on Twitter”? I don’t see the usefulness. However, the suffix may be more useful for describing certain parts of Twitter. Maple Leafs Twitter, for example, is the Barilkosphere, and Edmonton Oilers Twitter is the Oilogosphere. That may be useful shorthand in a 140-character world.
Mister Mom: People are saying this? People are really, as LSSU’s writeup implies, celebrating the 30th anniversary of a Michael Keaton movie that isn’t Batman? I don’t believe this at all. I wonder what Michael Keaton would be saying about this if he were alive today.
T-bone: People are suddenly annoyed at this particular metaphor for a particular type of automobile collision? 2013 was the year it broke out of casual conversations and onto the airwaves to be intoned solemnly by news broadcasters. Truly the age of gravitas is over, if so. We’ve officially reached the point of the Banned Words list where the cranks are allowed to vent. Fine, Kyle from White Lake, Michigan, you hate “T-bone.” What do you suggest we replace it with? Just paint your suggestion up there on your posterboard sign and take it to the street corner where you rant about Obama being a Jew alien every day.
___ on steroids: Okay, I’m with them here. Not that this is suddenly ubiquitous, but this is hacky material and overdue for retirement. It’s just a shade less cringeworthy than ending a sentence with “… not!” like you’re Mike Myers from 1992 or your mom from 2013. “___ on steroids” is of course a relative of “___ on crack,” which suddenly makes it seem a little relevant to 2013 after all. This was of course, the year Rob Ford responded to his crack scandal by vowing to lose weight and sought the aid of a personal trainer who had been convicted for trafficking in banned substances. “Rob Ford is a mayor on crack, on steroids” was a very possible headline this year.
-ageddon. -pocalypse: Mostly weather-related, mostly annoying. I do look forward to the media unironically reporting on a municipal administration’s unpreparedness to deal with a particularly heavy snowfall in a controversy dubbed Snowmageddongate.
Intellectually/morally bankrupt: These are overused for a good reason. I’ll give them up when politicians achieve intellectual/moral solvency.
Obamacare: Yes, it’s actually called the Affordable Care Act. And Reaganomics was, in large part, the Tax Reform Act. I can’t see how Obamacare is more laudatory or derisive than Reaganomics. Each encapsulates each man’s signature policy in a memorable way that ties it to the chief executive responsible for it. Let each of them wear it, for good or for ill. And one thing’s for sure: I’ll take each of these over Orwellian bullshit nomenclature designed to stifle reasonable dissent like the PATRIOT Act, which surely only treasonous America-haters could oppose.
Adversity: “Heard often in the world of football.” So what? It’s a tough sport. You try playing a gladiatorial sport on frozen turf in a snowstorm. You know when you really hear the word “adversity” a lot though? After a football player’s career flames out after three years and he’s struggling to provide for his family because he has no skills and never learned to save, or when he’s struggling to remember his children’s names because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy from years of concussive punishment. Don’t try to take away one of the only four-syllable words a football player ever learns.
Fan base: What’s wrong with just using the word “fans” and why do we need to inflate one word into two? Well, I might argue that “fan base” has a different shade of meaning from “the fans” in that it refers specifically to all of a sport team’s (or entertainer’s or whatever) fandom in a particularly single, monolithic way. It’s like distinguishing your readers from your readership, or your Twitter followers from your Twitter follower count. There’s a useful distinction when talking about increasing your fan base, from a corporate/marketing/bean counting standpoint.