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Find out which words made the list this year

By Staff | Jan 22, 2010

The word “czars” at Lake Superior State University do not disappoint. They recently released their 35th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

The list was first issued by the University’s public relations director in 1975. Since then, tens of thousands of nominations are submitted for the annual list, which includes words and phrases from marketing, media, education, technology and more.

Each year I share the highlights from this list just for fun. Because I live in a world of words, I look forward to this list each year.

Here are a few of my favorites from this year’s picks.

IN THESE ECONOMIC TIMES – As expected, nominations for words concerning the economy started rolling in last year already. All we can talk about is the economy. It’s being blamed for all sorts of disasters. Price hikes, job cuts, company bailouts, the sky is falling, blah, blah, blah it’s all just an excuse on which to blame every problem. It’s overused, and isn’t it really redundant? Aren’t all times technically “these economic times”? It isn’t next year’s economic times or last year’s.

STIMULUS – Along the same lines as the economy, another overused word is stimulus. Anytime the government throws money at something or someone these days it’s called a stimulus.

TOXIC ASSETS – Yet another term that can be tied to “these economic times” is toxic assets. Apparently we can no longer refer to bad business debt unless we make it as vile as possible. Makes it sound much worse when it starts with a poisonous term.

TOO BIG TO FAIL – This term came about with the recent recession, referring to several banks, the automakers, and other large companies or industries where the government stepped in and saved the day with bailouts. So despite an overabundance of toxic assets, the Big Three automakers were “too big to fail”. Some might argue that nothing is too big to fail unless the government steps in to stop it. As one commentator on the list pointed out, how would you ever know if a company is too big to fail, unless it somehow fails and then it would no longer be too big to fail.

TWEET – It hasn’t been around very long, which makes it a bit surprising to see it banished already, but overuse can happen almost overnight. Tweet is used to describe people who enter their thoughts on the social networking website called Twitter. It is especially popular with celebrities. Makes sense since most of us in the real world don’t have the time to tweet, nor do we care about every little thought that pops into someone else’s head.

CZAR – This long-used word is a metaphor for positions of high authority, but it came into popularity again with President Obama. But lately, the president seems to be handing out czar titles like party favors. It’s really just a trendy word for boring titles like leader, coordinator, or director.

FRIENDING – It’s suddenly become acceptable to use friend as a verb. This came into popularity through social networking websites such as Facebook. You can add someone to your network of contacts by “friending” them, or remove them by “unfriending” them. Apparently the whole idea of making friends has changed from face-to-face contact to a mere click of the computer mouse. One person who commented on this making the list said that befriend is a much more pleasant and perfectly useful word in the dictionary. Can’t we use that instead of inventing a new “fake” word?

TEACHABLE MOMENT – Finally, my personal favorite on this year’s list is “teachable moment”. Being a mother of two toddlers, I can appreciate a teachable moment as much as the next guy, but when people in politics or the media use it, it just sounds condescending. Can’t they just say an “opportunity to make a point”? It just sounds like something you’d say to kindergartners just before you tell them to take their rulers out of their desks. I guess in life, everything is a “teachable moment” if you look hard enough.

So there you have it. This year’s list of the words we are guilty of over-using or mis-using. Until next year, be on the lookout for other nominees.

Mullally is a Tribune writer.

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