January heralds the publication of annual lists of banned words and phrases. I began collecting candidates for this, my fifth compilation, early last year. Several of my selections usually show up on more widely circulated lists. Even though 2015 was like no other year, I’m sure there will be some consensus entries. Take for instance, my first one.
No matter what your political inclinations, you must be tired of hearing the word ‘Trumpism.’ I’m also tired of hearing the actual Trumpisms, but that’s a whole other issue. If The Donald is elected President in November, you can expect several Trumpisms to appear on my 2017 list. Until then, let’s just jettison the word itself.
We have The Donald to thank for my second banned term as well. Please spare me the verb ‘cherish,’ especially if you’re talking about women. This word has a noble history, but it’s become tarnished by the way it’s been used in the 2015 political season. If you’ve named one of your offspring ‘Cherish,’ feel free to continue to use it when referring to her. Unless her last name is Trump. Or your name is Donald. In which case, please refer to her as Cher.
Next is one I can’t believe I haven’t banned sooner: ‘whatever.’ I was so sure this would be a repeat that I read all my previous lists twice. Note that ‘whatever’ is off-limits only when the word stands alone as a dismissive comment on something someone else has said. If it’s part of an expression, you can continue to use it. Unless that phrase is “Whatever you say” or “Whatever you want.” Those would be a coward’s way of getting around my restriction and are likewise taboo.
A related phrase is: ‘It’s all good.’ I can’t recall what brought this to my attention, but as soon as I heard it, I knew it was joining my collection. Where ‘whatever’ implies you don’t give a fig about what was just said, ‘It’s all good’ tells us you have virtually no power of discrimination about the world around you. Whatever.
Here’s another that I’ve finally had enough of and had to check to be sure it wasn’t a repeat: ‘surreal.’ Just listen for a few minutes to some interviews with celebrities who are under age fifty and you’ll get why I’ve tossed this one. Like ‘cherish,’ ‘surreal’ has a noble history, especially in early 20th century art, but it’s still ta-ta (not to be confused with dada). Though we can’t blame Trump for ruining this word, we can’t refer to his campaign as ‘surreal’ anymore. Not to worry. We still have ‘bizarre.’
My next entry has several meanings, and I’m banning all of them. I think of ‘hack’ first as a verb, as in the breaching of technology—credit cards stolen, identities compromised. Then I think of someone who is inept at his job (perhaps because he allowed a breach?) Apparently “hack” now has a common misuse as a noun, meaning a tip or short-cut for doing something more easily. Anyway you slice it, it’s a word we can live without.
We can thank Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin for getting ‘conscious uncoupling’ kicked out this year, though they uncoupled last year, at least consciously. The phrase made my 2016 list because psychotherapists and marriage counselors around the globe have decided this is a great concept to peddle in their practices. It also begs the question: what is unconscious uncoupling?
The rock star of Roman Catholicism, Pope Francis, provided the banned phrase: ‘simplistic reductionism.’ Microsoft Word helps us convert this to “simpleminded over-simplification.” While I applaud the idea of reducing the complexities of life, the Pope’s expression concerns me. To be fair, His Holiness was cautioning against holding to extremes of good and evil, but folks have a way of, well… over-simplifying. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: “Everything in moderation. Including reductionism.”
One of the Democratic debates put the next phrase on my list. A soldier’s mother tweeted: “My son is not a pair of ‘boots on the ground’.” She pleaded for the candidates to stop saying that. Regardless of your politics, I hope you’ll agree to substitute “troops” in 2016. It would be better if there were no need to even consider employing troops, but that would drag us into the just-banned simplistic reductionism.
The Donald also inspired the final entry. I’m tired of hearing political pundits write that he ‘sucks the oxygen out of the room,’ but it’s certainly entertaining to watch him suck. I don’t know what we’ll do after the November election, but the lead up should provide plenty of colorful alternatives for my 2017 list. In the meantime, this completes my 2016 one.