It's the most wonderful time of the year ... for word nerds, anyway.
Not only do we have all these lovely "word of the year" announcements, we also have the Lake Superior State University Banished Words list coming up. Sure, we're word lovers, but there are limits, especially when certain words are perpetually misused and/or overused.
For me, they're typically terms in political talking points. Longtime readers know my distaste for politics, at least as practiced over the past few decades, but if it's possible, the political talking points have become more inane, more out of touch with reality, and far less original.
Case in point: "Status quo," usually preceded by "failing" or "broken." Because it's a talking point, no evidence is deemed necessary (which is very useful when you don't have any readily at hand, or evidence that what you propose to fix it has any actual worth other than scoring political points). Why bother researching an issue when you can just use a ready-made talking point that says nothing but signals to true believers that you're on their side?
I'm not the only one not crazy about political talking points. Denton Tumbleson wrote of what he'd like to see banished: "Woke (I'm not sure what it means and I don't know where it comes from and I suspect the person who uses it isn't sure either but obviously enjoys saying it) [and] radical left. (Apparently I fit into this category because my governor often uses it to describe a class of citizens she despises but represents like me. It's a derogatory phrase that has no redeeming value."
Along similar lines, Tracy De Jong wrote, "I'd like to throw out snowflake except for the white, cold kind." Agreed, especially since the people who use this insult the most seem to be the ones most offended by ... well ... everything that doesn't fit into their worldview.
Ed Tabler, like me, wishes "the media would stop referring to those political events as 'debates' when they are nowhere near the dictionary definition of a debate, but closer to WWE bunkhouse brawls."
I'm not sure the WWE would want to claim those things either. I only won one debate in competition in my life (I really hated debate, but couldn't stand the arrogance of my opponent), and it was nothing like what the "debates" are now, especially since we needed to cite sources and actually know the topic in-depth enough that we could pull those citations on the fly. Standing up on the dais, repeating talking points and tossing out insults like confetti is no substitute.
Ed also said, "the thing that really irritates me is when people, especially news people who should know better, say 'try and do something' when they mean 'try to do something.'"
I get it. I'm constantly having to correct that phrase, sometimes in my own writing (this is why I don't look at my column after I've finished it for a minimum of three or four hours if not overnight; it's easier to catch mistakes when you have some distance from them).
A reader who prefers to remain anonymous wrote, "I hate when I see 'prolly' instead of probably. If I was reading a resume of someone and they used that word, I would think they are too lazy to spell correctly, so why would I hire someone who may be too lazy to do a job they are seeking!"
Probably isn't the only word that gets shortened in an annoying way. "No problem, pronounced 'No prom' has irritated me for at least 30 years," wrote Darlene Emison. "I'm not sure exactly when it started being used in place of 'You're welcome,' but my skin crawls every time I hear it."
Darlene taught high school speech, drama and English, and said, "one day in class when a student said 'No prom' to me, I started yelling, 'What, we're not having a prom this year? Why not?' They all started getting upset and talking about it, and I just let them go on for a few minutes before I explained. They learned the lesson that day, but it didn't last long."
My English teacher cousin Mary (RIP) would have been so proud.
Other readers contributed words and phrases that irritate, annoy and befuddle. Rick Massey isn't a fan of the singular they/them. "My objection isn't anti-woke, it's that using a plural pronoun for singular is highly confusing." True, it can be, but it's also been in use that way for hundreds of years. I think I'm more irritated by the use of it when referring to something like Twitter/X or Nike. Despite what the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United, corporations aren't people, but things, and "it" is the proper term (one of the few things I'm actually a grammar grouch about).
Joe O'Brien would like to heave "existential threat" overboard, and I can't blame him because it's been so overused lately. Angela Gatteys, meanwhile, would like to ban "yada yada."
Kent Davis had many words and phrases up for contention, including "utilize" instead of "use," "harvest" instead of "kill" or "cut down," and "tool box," "as in, 'They used all the tools in the 'tool box' to achieve a peaceful settlement." (Hit the negotiator in the head with a wrench?)"
Well, that's one way to end negotiations. Not the best way, but a way.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at email@example.com. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.