New year, new dictionary12-Jan-2012
A small public university on the border of Michigan and Canada has published its annual list of Banished Words – a List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness. This is a tradition that Lake Superior State University has practised since 1976, with word-watchers all over America contributing suggestions from the media, and general day-to-day trends throughout the year.
From the 2012 list comes one word I definitely agree should be banished, if only because I am myself guilty of using it far more than I should: ‘amazing’. As one contributor puts it, ‘The word which once aptly described the process of birth is now used to describe such trivial things as toast, or the color of a shirt’. I think my new year’s resolution should be to start an Amazing Jar, and put a penny in every time I use this word about really mundane things – I don’t know if I can afford that though…
Another one I’m guilty of is the phrase ‘Thank you in advance’. I always thought this was polite email talk, but apparently it’s ‘a condescending and challenging way to say “Since I already thanked you, you have to do this”’. I should definitely re-think my work email etiquette in this case.
Some that made the list don’t really make much sense to me, and the biggest of these is ‘baby bump’. The contributors of this word say ‘Why can’t we just use the old tried-and-true “pregnant”?’ or ‘I’m tired of a pregnancy being reduced to a celebrity accessory’, but to me, the phrase ‘baby bump’ doesn’t describe ‘pregnancy’ but rather the bump that the baby is making! I think it’s quite a cute phrase, but then again I say amazing all the time and sign off 90% my emails with ‘Thank you in advance’, so maybe I’m not Lake Superior State’s best judge of banished words!
You can find the full list of LSSU’s 2012 Banished Words and their reasons for banishment here. Why not ask your students to compile a list of banished words, and then try and find alternatives. Choosing one word at the start of each lesson would be a really fun way of getting your students to interact with each other and debate, and then at the end of term you could use your final list to create some mock role-plays, such as news reports that use each word at least twice. Alternatively, you could play 5 minutes of an American news show once a week, and ask students to note down any over-used words, and over a couple of months get them to try and predict what might appear in the 2013 list.