Every year, a small college in northern Michigan compiles a list of words and phrases to eliminate from everyday vocabulary due to misuse, overuse and/or annoyance. In years past, words as mundane as ‘amazing’ or as trendy as ‘LOL’ made the list. Personally, I am of the opinion that any spoken text abbreviation should be banned. Do people realize that actually saying ‘by the way’ is shorter syllabically than ‘BTW?’
At the top of the list this year–not surprisingly–is ‘fiscal cliff.’ I’m not too worried about phasing that one out. I mean, once we go over it, we’ll need a new expression, anyway. 'Fiscal chasm'? 'Fiscal gorge'? I don’t see this expression going away anytime soon. I can’t imagine a politician frank enough to say, “We’re going to ignore this problem for a few weeks and hope it disappears.”
Next is 'double down.' The problem with this expression is that it has lost all meaning. In black jack, doubling down is doubling a bet on a potentially winning hand in hopes of doubling a payout. In politics and media, the expression seems to mean repeat: double down on a bailout. At a bar, it means get another round: double down on the margaritas. The list also includes the phrase ‘job creators.’ Since they don’t seem to exist, that expression should just fade away on its own.
I thought ‘passion’ was a strange choice for the list, but after thinking about it, it occurs to me that passion has replaced every other requirement for being good at something. He has a passion for race-car driving, she has a passion for designing clothes. Good for you. I have a passion for going into outer space, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be captaining the shuttle any time soon.
If there are no teens in your life, you've probably never heard the expression, 'YOLO.' It’s a text abbreviation and acronym for ‘you only live once.’ Teenagers use it in a purely manipulative attempt to get their way or justify some act of stupidity. It’s about as valuable to the English language as ‘what-not.’ The phrase ‘spoiler alert’ is next. Now in the context of movie reviews, ‘spoiler alert’ is a necessary evil. It notifies the reader that the writer is going to give something away about the plot. However, walking into a room and shouting Spoiler alert! The Yankees just traded A-Rod, tends to render the expression moot. Really, ‘breaking news’ seems more suitable.
'Bucket list'—it was a great movie, but enough is enough. People are bucket-listing everything. I have a bucket list of work accomplishments, as well as flavors to try at Baskin-Robbins. It was a good phrase and we killed it. 'Trending' is apparently trending. Anyone who questions whether this term has become hideously overused need only to watch fifteen minutes of E!
Next on the list was ‘superfood.’ Yeah, good luck trying to pry that one out of the hands of the kale industry. Another food-related term: boneless wings. Trust me, that phrase is going nowhere. If they called them what they really were, nobody would order them. The final word on the list is guru, which replaced tsar (and soon enough, some other over-inflated and self-important title will replace guru). Maybe at some point, actual job titles will make a comeback.
Well, that was the list for 2012. A new crop of words will emerge later this year, probably related to the economy or politics or movies, it just depends on what’s trending.