Redefining the Classroom

Archives: Banished Words 1984

Download a Printable Poster of 1984 Banished Words

Nominated by more Unicorn Hunters than any other word or phrase; but this year the count was so close we called it a tie:

High Tech – Used by politicians, advertisers, and educators to signify nothing except a vague jumble of concepts which they favor. Its most important contribution to the world of jargon is it s potential for grammatical formulations. Does one use high tech like a wrench? Or operate it like a bulldozer? Practice it like a religion? Was high tech invented, developed, discovered or manufactured? – Fritz Bhalli, Oklahoma City.

Build-Down – Further complicated on NBC-TV news, Oct. 4, 1983, when Chris Wallace explained visuals that there was a build-down rate of 2-1 and 3-2. Pat Kight of Corvallis, Oregon, classifies “build-down” as “unwholesome terminology for an etymological impossibility describing a political improbability.”

Frontal Nudity – How fine must the distinctions be? Is there a “backal nudity,” “testicular nudity,” or “left buttocks nudity”? It would seem that qualifications are no longer needed. We’ve gone about as far as we can go.

Time/Space fillersUnnecessary, usually trite words thrown in from time to time because the speakers or writer is afraid of silence or shorter sentences.

If You Will – I usually won’t. – William O. Marion, Ann Arbor, Mich.

In Other Words – Why not say what you mean the first time? – Ken Behrens, Bloomington, Ill.

Oh, Well – Usually used to change the subject; but it weakens the previous statement, however strong. – Christine Gerber, 10th Grade, Fairview Area Schools, Mich.

Basically – Used to upgrade pauses. – June Marx, Farmington Hills, Mich.

Terminal Cuteness – The obnoxious and indiscriminate use of hearts on bumper stickers and badges. – Milt Ferguson, Hillsdale, Mich.

New Kid On The Street (Block). – The first usage of I heard applied to adults in new lines of work was merely irksome. When it is used over and over by politicians, businessmen and others I stop listening to what follows.” – Margaret Smedgaard, Racine, Wis.

Make Babies – Particularly from the word processors or cutesy gossip columnists who have suddenly infested the nation’s newspapers. – Eugene Black, San Francisco, Cal.

Celebration – A legitimate word led down the garden path and mugged by mobs of copycats too lazy to find their own words.

Feisty – Has burst out like a pandemic disease, infecting newspapers, TV and radio. Mayor Koch is feisty; Congresswoman Fenwick is feisty; even Mary Poppins was in danger of becoming feisty. – Al Volpe, Woodside, N.Y.

One-year Moratorium

Awesome – From the whimsy of “Valleyspeak.” Where it was amusing, this word now appears regularly in print and broadcast: Detroit Free Press, New Yorker, Newsweek, the latter using it to describe a baseball pitcher. I find it preposterous to believe that all these writers are observing truly awesome performances, people or events on such a widespread scale. – Elnora S. Vader, Escanaba, MI

The Unicorn Hunters banish “awesome” for one year, during which it is to be rehabilitated until it means “fear mingled with admiration or reverence; a feeling produced by something majestic…”

Confused Quote Award In memory of C.E. Wilson who said, “What’s good for America is good for General Motors and vice versa” but was widely quoted as saying “What’s good for General Motors is good for America and vice versa.” The citation includes hand-carved inverted quotation marks designed by Len Pianosi, Lake Superior State College’s woodcarver-in-residence.

To Wanda Hogg, Redford High School English teacher who was quoted as saying “jokingly” of a janitor assigned by accident as a substitute teacher, “I heard he did real good.” Ms. Hogg insists she actually said, “I understand that he did a rather decent job, he did rather well… Yes, he did a good job.”

Senseless Prose

User Friendly – From the folks who have given us “up” meaning functioning and “down” meaning broken. – Edward C. Loyer, University of Michigan

The Unicorn Hunters note that a light switch glows in the dark is “user friendly.” A corkscrew is not. Mr. Loyer is concerned, not with the “user” but the “friendly:” “Is this to give me the urge to take a particular system to lunch, or find some alternative way to get intimate with it? Are there also systems or machines that are ‘user-friendly’?”

Realtime Downlink Video – In NASA talk (Dec. 4 space shuttle report) this means “current pictures.” – Greg Borgman, WKBZ, Muskegon, Mich.