“Amazing,” “man cave” and “baby bump” top this year’s list of abused, misused and just plain overused terms.
“There is nothing wrong, really, with any word – all are good,” wrote E.B. White in his famous revision of William Strunk’s guide to good writing, The Elements of Style, “all are good.”
The people at, the rather aptly named, Lake Superior State University disagree. Every year they hold a popular survey to determine which words should be forcefully removed from the English language, either because they’re over-used, used incorrectly or simply hideous. The list has been running since 1975, when former public relations director Bill Rabe came up with the idea at a New Year’s Eve Party.
“Amazing” seems to have lexical guardians up in arms this year, with people writing in from all over the world to express their disdain for the term.
“Every talk show uses this word at least two times every five minutes,” wrote one irate elocutionist. “Hair is not ‘amazing.’ Shoes are not ‘amazing.’ There are any number of adjectives that are far more descriptive. I saw Martha Stewart use the word ‘amazing’ six times in the first five minutes of her television show. Help!”
“The word which once aptly described the process of birth is now used to describe such trivial things as toast, or the color of a shirt,” wrote another.
“Baby bump,” often used to refer to a woman’s stomach during pregnancy because “gut” sounds unpleasant and “tummy” makes anyone over the age of thirty sound like a sexual predator, came in a close second.
“Occupy,” as in Wall Street, earned some ire as well.
“‘Occupy Wall Street’ grew to become Occupy ‘insert name of your city here’ all over the country. It should be banished because of the media overuse and now people use it all the time, i.e. ‘I guess we will occupy your office and have the meeting there.’ ‘We are headed to Grandma’s house – Occupy Thanksgiving is under way.”
The list also included a few words that aren’t really words at all. “Ginormous” and “trickeration,” which sound like something George W. Bush would say if his speeches were written by Dr. Seuss, both made the list. As did aggravating arse-speak phrases like “win the future,” “thank you in advance,” “the new normal” and “shared sacrifice.”
Personally, I’ve always subscribed to Stephen Fry’s linguistic philosophy, but if I did have to ban a set of words, I’d probably go with “knee,” “arrow,” “in” and “the.” Not in that order.