By Jeff Karoub
DETROIT — Spoiler alert: This story contains words and phrases that some people want to ban from the English language. “Spoiler alert” is among them. So are “kick the can down the road,” “trending” and “bucket list.”
A dirty dozen have landed on the 38th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. The nonbinding, tongue-in-cheek decree released Monday by northern Michigan’s Lake Superior State University is based on nominations submitted from the United States, Canada and beyond.
“Spoiler alert,” the seemingly thoughtful way to warn readers or viewers about looming references to a key plot point in a film or TV show, nevertheless passed its use-by date for many, including Joseph Foly, of Fremont, Calif. He argued in his submission the phrase is “used as an obnoxious way to show one has trivial information and is about to use it, no matter what.”
At the risk of further offense, here’s another spoiler alert: The phrase receiving the most nominations this year is “fiscal cliff,” banished because of its overuse by media outlets when describing across-the-board federal tax increases and spending cuts that economists say could harm the economy in the new year without congressional action.
“You can’t turn on the news without hearing this,” said Christopher Loiselle, of Midland, Mich., in his submission. “I’m equally worried about the River of Debt and Mountain of Despair.”
Other terms coming in for a literary lashing are “superfood,” “guru,” “job creators” and “double down.”
University spokesman Tom Pink said that in nearly four decades, the Sault Ste. Marie school has “banished” around 900 words or phrases, and somehow the whole idea has survived rapidly advancing technology and diminishing attention spans.
Nominations used to come by mail, then fax and via the school’s website, he said. Now most come through the university’s Facebook page. That’s fitting, since social media has helped accelerate the life cycle of certain words and phrases, such as this year’s entry “YOLO” – “you only live once.”
“The list surprises me in one way or another every year, and the same way every year: I’m always surprised how people still like it, love it,” he said.
Rounding out the list are “job creators/creation,” “boneless wings” and “passion/passionate.” Those who nominated the last one say they are tired of hearing about a company’s “passion” as a substitute for providing a service or product for money.
Andrew Foyle, of Bristol, England, said it’s reached the point where “passion” is the only ingredient that keeps a chef from preparing “seared tuna” that tastes “like dust swept from a station platform.”
“Apparently, it’s insufficient to do it ably, with skill, commitment or finesse,” Foyle said. “Passionate, begone!”
As usual, the etymological exercise – or exorcise – only goes so far. Past lists haven’t eradicated “viral,” “amazing,” “LOL” or “man cave” from everyday use