Redefining the Classroom

Archives: Banished Words 2001

Politics as Usual

SPEAKS TO - At one time we discussed ideas. Nothing more than " bureaucratic bafflegab," says Brenda Skinner of North Bay, Ontario.

CELEBRATE - A one-year moratorium for this word. Pregnant with triteness. It should be "returned to the status it had before it became a vogue word," says Miriam Weiss of Astoria, New York. She adds, "By all means, celebrate holidays and events, but there's been way too much celebration of qualities, heritages, histories and diversity itself. I say, put the hats and horns away." Al Thompson of Cambridge, Massachusetts, says, "Now, every human weirdness is cause to break out the ice cream and cake."

FUZZY MATH - Gets a four-year term limit. Unleashed during a presidential debate, this sound bite could live again during upcoming tax cut and budget surplus fights. "Fuzzy math is only used by people who are masters of it," says Bob Goodsell of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

CHAD - Citizens of Chad, especially those who are pregnant or born with dimples, deserve a peaceful and prosperous new year. Need we say more?

GOING FORWARD - Let's go someplace else with this one. "Since most people travel backward in time, this is a valuable phrase," says Brian Fumo of Newport, Rhode Island.

NEGATIVE GROWTH - As opposed to positive shrinking. 'Gifted' from the world of "morons in three-piece suits trying to sugar-coat their incompetence," according to Kelly Hall of York, Pennsylvania.

MANUAL RECOUNT BY HAND - One of the many words and phrases born during the 2000 presidential election. "I heard this from many newscasters during the election brouhaha. Evidently, 'manual' no longer means 'by hand.'" Patty Peek, Petoskey, Michigan.

Mumblings from the World of Sports

ACADEMICALLY FRAGILE - Describes a student-athlete's precarious academic standing or pedigree. Dangles dangerously into other areas of the 'at risk' realm. Nominated by Dave Kudson of Minneapolis, who traces its origin to a recent basketball scandal in Minnesota.

SHAKEN UP - A dazed and confused word, usually tied into a sports injury. "As if athletes were martinis," notes Kelly Hall of York, Pennsylvania.

FOOT SPEED - Perhaps the leg muscles aren't involved. Jon Reynolds of Lansing, Michigan, nominated this with football sportscasters in mind.

FALSE START PRIOR TO THE SNAP - Redundant usage . . . 10-yard penalty. "If it is a false start, it would inherently be prior to the snap of a football, before the action starts," mentions Sue Golbiw of Royal Oak, Michigan.

Business Babble

DOT.COM nominated by many. Follows 'e-anything,' which was included on the 2000 list. "Since the Super bowl in January 2000, '' is heard at the end of every commercial!" Loma Lee, Vancouver, British Columbia.

"Someone will mention a manufacturer's new idea and someone else will ask, 'Are they dot.comming it?' or 'We need to '' this!'" Elizabeth Wiethoff, St. Paul, Minnesota.

"My students found it to be one of the most egregious catch-phrases of the year." Harry Coffill, E. Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

LEVERAGE An over-used and often mis-used term in the business world. "I think it is a false verbification of the noun 'leverage,' says Phil Rustage, London, UK.

"Leverage this...leverage that...It makes me want to puke. I don't really know the new definition of this word, but I've caught on (empirically) by hearing it a dozen million times from those suit-wearing marketing bozos." Todd Ryan, Knoxville, Tennessee. Todd performed an Internet search for 'leverage' and found more than 50,000 entries. He quit (and so did we) reading after the fifth entry, calling the lot of it 'gobbledygook.' We agree.

HEADS-UPOver-used in business settings. "...As in, 'I want to give you a heads-up on this,'" says Hugh D. Hyatt, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. "What's wrong with, 'I want to warn you,' or 'I want to give you advanced notice?'"

Media Mayhem

HERO - "The word 'hero' has no meaning anymore. Today's society has applied it many people not deserving of the appellation. Nowadays anyone who would normally be referred to as a role model is called a 'hero.'" Henry Sibley, Natchitoches, Louisiana.

FACTOID - Straight out of some sci-fi thriller. "Some of the news and sports networks have adopted this as a cute come-on for trivia. 'Have you fed your factoid today?'" asks Charles E. Schermerhorn, Lompoc, California.

DUDE - Made even more popular by recent Hollywood creations. "I can't believe you haven't banished it already!" said Adam Santi, of Sioux City, Iowa, after noticing that it isn't on our compiled list.

"One of the more glaring examples of adolescent lingo," said Tim Campbell, father of six teenagers in Victoria, British Columbia.

DIVA - Narrowly escaped the list in 1999 and 2000. "Now being applied to all women singers even though it once applied only to opera singers." says Art Bergeron, Chester, Virginia.

"I thought it was bad when I heard Madonna described as a 'diva.' Since then, I've seen promotions for shows on 'male divas' and 'transvestite divas.'" Jennifer McGraw, Brevort, Michigan.

"Elton John is NOT a diva. He's a GUY!" Lisa Sanderson, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

FINAL DESTINATION - "Aren't all destinations final? (I can't take credit for this. I heard it from George Carlin!)" Justin Meilstrup, Marquette, Michigan.

Just Plain Sloppy

ONE OF THE ONLY - "Either it is the only one or it is one of the few." Zack Soderberg, Las Vegas, Nevada.

BEGS THE QUESTION - "'To beg the question' means to take for granted, without proof, the point at issue, but many people say it when they really mean 'to raise the question,'" says Catherine Lauzon, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Also nominated by listeners of David Newman's show on WJR, Detroit.

SWIPE - "This word means 'to strike with a long or wide sweeping blow,' or 'to steal or pilfer.' It is being used increasingly on credit-card readers in stores. From whom do the merchants want me to steal the card? And I can't see where beating the card will do any good." Laura Brestovansky, Dryden, Michigan.

HAVE A GOOD ONE! - A modification of the 1970s' 'Have a nice day!' "I went into a store to buy some feminine hygiene products... As I paid, the young clerk bid me farewell by saying 'Have a good one!'... Have a good what?" Deb Captain, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Dale Hugo of Arlington Heights, Illinois, sent in a late nomination along with a poem entitled "Language Losses." He sums up the frustration felt by many of those who send nominations to LSSU:

"I guess language changes with the times,
From culture or usage, and that's no crime.
So use your words, and stay up to date,
But when you talk to me, please translate."