The annual ‘Banished Words” List, a favorite of mine, seeks to strike out nonsensical, over-used and tasteless expressions. 2016’s bad boys include bigly, dadbod, and guesstimate, and most of us can easily come up with better boys to use instead. The clever folks at Lake Superior State University, who have complied the offending terms for 42 years, don’t always offer alternatives to the words they want gone. This year, they do suggest “concentrate” or “look” in place of focus, a word that has perhaps lost itself.
My own favorite targets include non-brainers like “at this moment in time”, “our reporter on the ground” — as opposed to under the ground or above it? – “just sayin’” – Are you trying to take the bite out of your words, or apologize, or deny responsibility for what you just said?
One that’s almost gone now but really melts my teeth: “It is what it is.” I was fine with “YOLO” but glad it didn’t last – and anyway, YODO, too. “On behalf of myself” (huh?) could go right now . . . and please: I am not my dog’s mommy.
I do rant about certain communication habits, so, figuring that habits are often best shed through replacement with something better, I might offer a few substitutes. Let’s see:
- Vocal fry – the sexy-baby scratchy-smoker’s voice that has leached out of K-world to otherwise sensible women and men, is caused by trapping air and grinding it through your throat like sandpaper on metal. A clear voice, powered by air from the diaphragm, conveys natural credibility, and saves your vocal chords in case you need them later.
- “I’m like” or “I’m all” for I said, or I thought, or I felt . . . . Even kids sound goofy in teenspeak. Use: I said, I thought, I felt.
- In place of tired old “outside the box/envelope/nine dots” . . . try innovative thinking.
- Drop the junk word “totally” for more precise terms: extremely, completely, very, deeply, to a great extent, and in some cases, I agree.
- Rather than: “y’know”, “with all due respect”, “I know, right?”, and “whatever” (the latter recently found by The Marist Poll to be the most annoying word in use today, with the level of dislike increasing with age) . . .