Cleaning Out the Language Gutters for 2012

Every year, Michigan’s Lake Superior University and I like to take stock of the English language. The school lets students nominate words that they feel have become misused, overused and cliché, and the winners are compiled into a list for your banishment consideration. This is a valuable lesson in democracy in which students learn that they can make nominations and cast votes, while a college has the liberty of overriding their decision.

I refer to this act as “cleaning out the language gutters,” which should be performed yearly lest they fill with water and gunk, and then freeze and burst. After all, if I wanted to persist with a language full of ridiculous words, I would have continued taking Spanish in college.

“Occupy” made the list, and consequently dominated headlines about it. It was popularized, of course, by the Occupy Wall Street movement as a play on words for graduates that couldn’t find steady work in this economy, so they “occupied” a park. Unfortunately, everything is “occupied” now according to nominators, including Black Friday Promotions and Thanksgiving. Unless the lock on the porta-john says “occupied,” it might be time to give this word a rest. Might I suggest economic protesters adopt “squat” in the meantime?

Left unchecked, amazement fatigue could ruin all that we hold "amazing."

“Amazing,” however, was number one. And, as a veteran to the word-scorning game, I’m not surprised that at least entry is an adjective for “very good.” Previous winners of my disdain include “awesome” and “decadent,” which had been words du jour for advertisers and public relations firms. As with “awesome,” not everything can be “amazing.” Either every item sold in television truly inspires amazement, or you have the wonder (and mind) of a child.

“Baby bump.” Jesus. Look, I get that the miracle of life is amazing — even if it’s your twentieth time (The Duggars: 19 and one, baby!) — but let’s not encourage tabloid writers to make any further alliterations whenever they catch Britney Spears sporting a beer belly. Besides, I always thought a “baby bump” was mob slang for an abortion.

Read the other words (including the ones those eggheads missed) at:

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