Dead Language: The Words and Phrases We Could Live Without in 2013

The good folks over at Lake Superior State University (and I’m using “good folks” here as politicians use it — to indicate I have no idea who these people are), have compiled a year-end list of words and phrases that their “activist grammarians” (there’s nothing quite as precious as the business card of an academic) would like to see banned in 2013 due to abuse or overuse. The roster:

  • Fiscal cliff

  • Double down
  • Job creators/creation
  • Passion/Passionate
  • YOLO
  • Spoiler Alert
  • Bucket list
  • Trending
  • Superfood
  • Boneless Wings
  • Guru
  • Kick the can down the road

I’m sympathetic to many of these (we already have a term for boneless wings — “meat”). “Trending” and “spoiler alert”, however, seem to fill legitimate verbal needs — I think the real objection there might have more to do with how people use them (or what kind of people use them).

As ever, I also nominate “an adult conversation” for the list. And while we’re at it, “organically,” “sustainable,” and the rampant misuse of “literally” all have to to go (not since “liberal” has a word become so unmoored from its original meaning).

What words or phrases do you think we’d be better off without in 2013?

  1. Give Me Liberty

    Working, as in, the working man, working women, working poor, working families, and, of course, only Democrats care about any of them.

  2. Shane McGuire

    “assault weapon”

  3. Thom Williams

    The establishment, especially as it pertains to the GOP. It has come to mean people who won’t crash the republican party on the rocks of ideological purity by engaging in quixotic acts of political symbolism.

  4. Troy Senik, Ed.
    Shane McGuire: “assault weapon” · 3 minutes ago

    You know there’s a problem when a term arises to meet the needs of legislation rather than any exogenous reality. Good choice. 

  5. Franco

    In or out of ones’ “wheelhouse”  

  6. Troy Senik, Ed.
    Thom Williams: The establishment, especially as it pertains to thee GOP. It has come to mean people who won’t crash the republican party on the rocks of ideological purity by engaging in quixotic acts if political symbolism. · 3 minutes ago

    Meghan Clyne brought up her difficulty with this phrase on an issue of “Young Guns” once. I think I understand the sentiment that drives people to use it, but it’s maddeningly imprecise.

    Sort of like RINO — if that phrase applies to both Rob (who’s a conservative on all but a couple of issues) and an Olympia Snowe or (going old school here) a Lincoln Chafee, whose allegiance to conservatism is a coin flip on virtually everything, it’s not of much use to us. 

  7. Byron Horatio

    I should like us to return to the 19th century’s much more honest political distinctions with the Left being non-pejoratively referred to as “Socialists” and the small-government disciples rightly being called “Liberals” as in “liberating the economy.”

     

  8. Franco

    “ideological purity”

  9. Hang On

    “President Obama”. But it ain’t gonna happen.

  10. tabula rasa

    Old coot question:  what the heck is “YOLO”?

    “Spoiler alert” serves a useful function.  Is there an alternative as brief or as understandable?

    When it first entered political speak, “double down” had genuine meaning.  It’s been so overused that it’s become trite (which seems to be the definition of a cliche).

    I’m all for not using “job creator,” but let’s replace it–pretending “job creators” don’t exist is a liberal tool.

    A coinage similar to “adult conversation” (does this mean we get to swear?) that should return to the netherworld is “national conversation” (Really big conference call?  My neighbor opens his door and I say, “let’s talk about race.”  Sidling up to a guy at the next urinal and asking, “So, what do you think of gay marriage?].

    I don’t think the Republic would end if we banned Oliver Stone from misusing the word “Orwellian.”  [E J:  I know the first amendment gives him the right to act like a horse's a##].  Just sayin’.

  11. Ryan M

    One of the ads on the corner of my page (don’t remember what website it was) had a picture of a T-shirt that said “Misuse of the word Literally makes me Figuratively sick.”

    It made me chuckle.

  12. Leigh
    tabula rasa:

    I’m all for not using “job creator,” but let’s replace it–pretending “job creators” don’t exist is a liberal tool.

    I’ve been thinking for a while lately that Republicans needed to come up with a new phrase for their talking points.  Pretty sure by now way too many people hear “job creator” and understand it as “Republican code for rich people.”  Just like “new revenues” is Democratic code for “tax increases.”

    Revenues.”  That’s one we could live without, as used today (of course it has a legitimate place).

  13. Ryan M
    tabula rasa: Old coot question:  what the heck is “YOLO”?

    “Spoiler alert” serves a useful function.  Is there an alternative as brief or as understandable?

    When it first entered political speak, “double down” had genuine meaning.  It’s been so overused that it’s become trite (which seems to be the definition of a cliche).

    I’m all for not using “job creator,” but let’s replace it–pretending “job creators” don’t exist is a liberal tool.

    A coinage similar to “adult conversation” (does this mean we get to swear?) that should return to the netherworld is “national conversation” (Really big conference call?  My neighbor opens his door and I say, “let’s talk about race.”  Sidling up to a guy at the next urinal and asking, “So, what do you think of gay marriage?]. · 3 minutes ago

    I was just about to say “I have no idea what YOLO is;” I’m glad there is someone here in the same boat.

  14. I. M. Lowdensgutfrende

    “Smart” anything.

  15. Franco
    Troy Senik, Ed.

    Thom Williams: The establishment, especially as it pertains to thee GOP. It has come to mean people who won’t crash the republican party on the rocks of ideological purity by engaging in quixotic acts if political symbolism. · 3 minutes ago

    Sort of like RINO — if that phrase applies to both Rob (who’s a conservative on all but a couple of issues) and an Olympia Snowe or (going old school here) a Lincoln Chafee, whose allegiance to conservatism is a coin flip on virtually everything, it’s not of much use to us.  · 12 minutes ago

    RINO means of course,  Republican in name only. However, anyone can be a Republican, and if anyone can be a Republican, it is impossible to be one “in name only”. It is ONLY a name. That is the only thing Republicans all have and share – a name. So the term holds no descriptive content and is meaningless. You can say a Republican is liberal, not conservative, etc. but a RINO? It supposes the GOP is conservative – which it is not – and the party has no mechanism for policing its ranks.

  16. Last Outpost on the Right

    If it weren’t for my 19-year-old daughter, I would not know that YOLO means … “You only live once”

    Ryan M

    tabula rasa: Old coot question:  what the heck is “YOLO”?

    “Spoiler alert” serves a useful function.  Is there an alternative as brief or as understandable?

    When it first entered political speak, “double down” had genuine meaning.  It’s been so overused that it’s become trite (which seems to be the definition of a cliche).

    I’m all for not using “job creator,” but let’s replace it–pretending “job creators” don’t exist is a liberal tool.

    A coinage similar to “adult conversation” (does this mean we get to swear?) that should return to the netherworld is “national conversation” (Really big conference call?  My neighbor opens his door and I say, “let’s talk about race.”  Sidling up to a guy at the next urinal and asking, “So, what do you think of gay marriage?]. · 3 minutes ago

    I was just about to say “I have no idea what YOLO is;” I’m glad there is someone here in the same boat. · 1 minute ago

  17. Crow

    “dog whistle”

  18. Wylee Coyote
    tabula rasa: Old coot question:  what the heck is “YOLO”?

    YOLO = “You Only Live Once”.  An abbreviated, all-purpose explanation for idiotic behavior.

    Ditto for any description of politics as “conversation” or “discussion”.  We all know how this one goes – they tell us what’s wrong with us, we respond, they call us racists.  And on it goes.

    Also, aren’t boneless wings basically nuggets?

  19. Chris Campion

    “Let me be clear”

    “Investment” – whenever a politician uses it.

    The Straw Man – whenever and wherever it is used.  Infantilism writ large.

    The phrase “writ large”.

    Any sentence or phrase that includes the word “Biden”.

    “Gun control”

    “Adult conversation”

    “National conversation”

    “1%”

  20. Ryan M
    Troy Senik, Ed.

    Sort of like RINO — if that phrase applies to both Rob (who’s a conservative on all but a couple of issues) and an Olympia Snowe or (going old school here) a Lincoln Chafee, whose allegiance to conservatism is a coin flip on virtually everything, it’s not of much use to us.  · 13 minutes ago

    Yeah, the problem, I think, is that many conservatives like to call themselves RINOs.  I used to do something similar (equally popular) which is to say “I’m not a republican, I vote the issues.”  Turns out, I’ve NEVER voted anything other than republican, because I’m a conservative.  So now I just say I’m a republican.

    But speaking of overused phrases:  “I’m socially liberal, fiscally conservative.”  uh…   ok.  That basically means you’re a democrat who tries to sound cool in conservative circles.  (no offense to all of the SLFC ricochetti)

    Wait – one more – “no offense.”  That pretty much means “I’m about to say something offensive.”  If you mean it, just don’t say it.  If you’re going to say it, don’t bother with the lame “no offense.”  ;)