I’m willing to bet that most of my readers have never heard of Lake Superior State University. Well, I’m sure it’s a really great institution, but actually for now I’m not interested in what it does, except for this one thing. Every year it publishes a list of ‘Banished Words’ (their upper case, not mine), or ‘List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness, an amazing list that is bound to generate some blowback’.
The list itself is compiled from submissions made by members of the public, through this online form.
Anyway, the results for this year are out, and the banished words are led by ‘amazing’ and ‘ginormous’. In fact, some are phrases rather than words, including phrases I had never heard of, such as ‘win the future’. If you want to look at the complete list from all previous years, you can find it here. It contains some unexpected entries (unexpected in the sense that they seem harmless enough), such as ‘aromatherapy’ and ‘ever’.
Actually (and, oddly, that’s not a banned word), this list is not a bad idea; and certainly it’s a good PR wheeze for Lake Superior State University. But it falls down because it just contains too much, perhaps because of an excessively indiscriminate approach to word- and phrase-banning. Why on earth would you want to ban ‘accident’, ‘journey’ or ‘male’? And while I certainly am happy to banish ‘multidisciplinary current awareness product”, has anyone ever used the expression, and anyway, what on earth does it mean?
There are certainly words and expressions that should be banned, and I’ve mentioned some of them before in this blog. I would start with ‘going forward’, unless it’s describing the movement of a car. But the Lake Superior people need to focus a little more on words that are really annoying, rather than on ones that are merely there. And stick to expressions that people actually use, excessively. Do that, and the whole thing is ‘cast in hat’ (whatever that means).