January is the publication month for annual lists of banned words and phrases. As with last year, I collected ones that were annoying me throughout 2016. If my 2017 list is like my previous compilations, several of my choices will appear on other popular round ups. Also predictable: most of my entries were inspired by the 2016 Presidential election. Since they’re election-driven, we’ll need to keep the ban in effect through at least 2018. I can’t bear to think farther into the future than that.
Let’s start with a phrase that’s not political, since there are plenty of those further down. I am so over hearing “I mean,” especially on television. “I mean” seems to have replaced the simpler “so” as the filler noise in an interview. Filler words are even more annoying than filler sounds like “er” and “um.” Fie on them all.
So much verbiage assaulted us during the election that I can’t remember what prompted me to include ‘Siren Call’ on this year’s list. Back in February, 2016, RealClearPolitics.com ran the headline: “Millennials Heed the Siren Call of Socialism.” It was referring to Bernie Sanders’ candidacy. But it might also have been a polite way to say that Donald Trump’s rhetoric was a dog whistle to White Supremacists. Whatever my motivation, ‘siren call’ is out, but you can keep ‘dog whistle’. For now.
Staying on Trump (do we have a choice?), say goodbye to ‘Pivot’. Our President-elect changed his positions so frequently and so quickly that he should have been put in a tutu and mounted on a music box. He defended this by saying, “It’s not change; it’s negotiation.” Fine. You can keep ‘change’ and ‘negotiation.’ But any reporter who talks about someone’s pivot will land on my growing list of no-longer-news-sources. Not even for ideas for my blog posts.
As a logical extension: Say so long to ‘By the Way,’ especially when it’s used as a pivot (appearing in its swan song here) in answering a question from the press. The Donald was a master at using that phrase to redirect attention away from the question at hand and to meander down some totally unrelated path. We shall keep the extremely useful non sequitur, by the way.
Another Trump favorite that often accompanied ‘by the way’ in a pronouncement was ‘Believe Me.’ Not unlike the expression: “With all due respect…” (when you know no respect will be shown), “believe me” is a red flag that we probably shouldn’t believe him. So, I’m banning it, but don’t be foolish enough to believe me if I say Mr. T will abide by this.
This next phrase is one that actually might get sucked into a dark hole now that I’ve banned it. I don’t think the President-elect will have much need for ‘People Are Saying’ once he’s inaugurated. He’ll be too focused on what he’s saying. So I’m banning his previous go-to expression in favor of a new one: ‘You don’t say?’
Here is yet another banned word provided thanks to Trump: ‘Rigged.’ Now that he’s won the election, he really has no further use for this. Unless it’s put in the negative, as in “The 2016 Presidential election definitely was not rigged by Putin.” Either way, it makes the hair stand up on my nape, so it’s de rigueur to avoid it.
Next is a phrase that more than one Republican tossed about during the primary like a live hand grenade: ‘Carpet Bomb.’ We can thank Ted Cruz for motivating me to ban it this year. It’s not that ‘carpet bomb’ is a bad phrase per se. It’s just that it was woefully misused. Kind of like ‘per se’…
Similarly, commentators on both sides of the political divide droned on about the ‘Ground Game,’ which was also proven to be misunderstood. Ground games that were assumed to be solid turned out not to be based on terra firma. And the one that seemed murkiest yielded concrete results. We’ve sent the pundits back to the drawing board on this. They’re sequestered with the pollsters until midterm elections.
My final entry is a trio of ‘-ibles’ and ‘-ables’. As in ‘Horrible’, ‘Terrible’ (and in a nod to equal censure) ‘Deplorable’. They were all overexposed during the campaign, so they no longer carry any weight. It’s lamentable, but at least I’m keeping ‘basket’ so I have something to hide my creative light under.
One word that is conspicuously missing from this list is ‘bigly.’ The fact that Trump is trying to convince everyone that he was really saying ‘big league’ is so preposterous (and entertaining) that I couldn’t bring myself to ban either biggie. I suppose we could at least give him a hand for trying. A bigly hand…