Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mush Mouth

Lately, while listening to radio and TV, I've heard a lot of poor enunciations. Following are some recent examples I've noted.

  • "Vunnabel" for vulnerable
  • "Ess-spression" for expression
  • "Tearist" for terrorist. I'm guessing that "tearist" is going to be the new "nucular".
  • "Meterologist" for meteorologist. What? Is this someone who studies meters? The sad thing was that the offender on this word was an actual meteorologist.

Feel free to add some mush mouth examples you've heard in the media in the comment box.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Coming Full Circle

The other day, a lover and I were having an odd conversation about the history of women's underwear, when I learned that women didn't wear any sort of bottoms at all until the 19th century. The conversation came about when she groused about a historical novel she'd recently read. The plot took place during the American Revolution and in one chapter the author referred to a female character's bloomers, which my friend said was an anachronism.

I laughed, thinking how much easier it was for men back then to get down to business with a woman -- all he had to do was lift her skirt. And then I had to wonder what women did at certain times of the month if they were freebreezing it all the time.

My third thought was about how now, 200+ years later, we've nearly come full circle. I got the idea that this would make a funny blog entry, so I did a bit of research.

To Illustrate:

1. 1776

2. 1876

3. 1920

4. 1940

5. 1960

6. 1970

7. 1990

8. 2000

9 Some time in the near future

From the commando of the 1770s to the commando of the 21st century, we will have come full circle.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Customer Service Rant

Last month, I opened my bill from Circuit City to find I'd been slapped with a 35 dollar late fee. The bill showed that my payment had been credited to my account one day after the due date.

Never mind the fact that I'd paid the bill on time. I'd paid it at the store, and I was fortunate enough that I'd kept the receipt, which proved the date and time I'd made the payment.

I called the toll-free number to sort this out, and while they readily agreed that I'd been improperly assessed a late fee, they told me to go ahead and pay it anyway, and that they'd adjust it on my next bill.

The hell with that! I told them that this was unacceptable; that it wasn't my responsibility that the store screwed up and credited my payment incorrectly. As I'd paid my bill by the agreed-upon time, I wasn't about to be inconvenienced by having to pay a late fee, even if they did credit it back to me next month.

I had to talk to a supervisor, but they eventually saw it my way.

I opened my bill for this month and guess what? They did it again! I'd made a point of saving my receipt this time, so I called the toll free number again, and was again advised to pay the late fee and that they'd credit it to me next month. And once again, I explained why this was unacceptable and why it simply wasn't going to happen. This time, I didn't need the supervisor to get my point across.

No wonder they're going out of business.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Quotes and Comments

Drive-in banks were established so most of the cars today could see their real owners.
--E. Joseph Cossman

When the car is worth anything, the bank owns most of it. When you own it, it's not worth anything.

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
--John Kenneth Galbraith

This pretty much says it all and is what is behind their opposition to all programs designed to help the less fortunate members of society.

The average, healthy, well-adjusted adult gets up at seven-thirty in the morning feeling just plain terrible.
--Jean Kerr

As a night owl, I heartily concur with this.

Traditions are group efforts to keep the unexpected from happening.
--Barbara Tober

And as such, are most treasured by those who fear change.

I find it rather easy to portray a businessman. Being bland, rather cruel and incompetent comes naturally to me.
--John Cleese

Has he known some of my former bosses?

Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.
--Robert Louis Stevenson

Workaholism limits lives. What is the use of all the extra money if you're always either at work or too tired to enjoy it?

Maybe this world is another planet's hell.
--Aldous Huxley

I've never believed in the Christian hell, as I think it's right here on Earth.

I have not lost my mind - it's backed up on disk somewhere.

I know this feeling all too well.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

50 Facts About President Obama

He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics.

He was known as "O'Bomber" at high school for his skill at basketball.

His name means "one who is blessed" in Swahili

His favourite meal is wife Michelle's shrimp linguini.

He won a Grammy in 2006 for the audio version of his memoir, "Dreams From My Father."

He is left-handed – the sixth post-war president to be left-handed.

He has read every Harry Potter book.

He owns a set of red boxing gloves autographed by Muhammad Ail.

He worked in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop as a teenager and now can't stand ice cream.

His favourite snacks are chocolate-peanut protein bars.

He ate dog meat, snake meat and roasted grasshopper while living in Indonesia.

He can speak Spanish.

While on the campaign trail, he refused to watch CNN and had sports channels on instead.

His favourite drink is black forest berry iced tea.

He promised Michelle he would quit smoking before running for president – he didn't.

He kept a pet ape called Tata while in Indonesia.

He can bench press an impressive 200 pounds.

He was known as Barry until university when he asked to be addressed by his full name.

His favourite book is "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville.

He visited Wokingham, Berks, in 1996 for the stag party of his half-sister's fiancé, but left when a stripper arrived.

His desk in his Senate office once belonged to Robert Kennedy.

He and Michelle made $4.2 million (£2.7 million) last year, with much coming from sales of his books.

His favourite films are "Casablanca" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

He carries a tiny Madonna and child statue and a bracelet belonging to a soldier in Iraq for good luck.

He applied to appear in a black pin-up calendar while at Harvard but was rejected by the all-female committee.

His favourite music includes Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Bach and The Fugees.

He took Michelle to see the Spike Lee film "Do The Right Thing" on their first date.

He enjoys playing Scrabble and poker.

He doesn't drink coffee and rarely drinks alcohol.

He would have liked to have been an architect if he were not a politician.

As a teenager, he took drugs including marijuana and cocaine.

His daughters' ambitions are to go to Yale before becoming an actress (Malia, 10) and to sing and dance (Sasha, 7.)

He hates the youth trend for trousers which sag beneath the backside.

He repaid his student loan only four years ago after signing his book deal.

His house in Chicago has four fireplaces.

Daughter Malia's godmother is Jesse Jackson's daughter Santita.

He says his worst habit is constantly checking his BlackBerry.

He uses an Apple Mac laptop.

He drives a Ford Escape Hybrid, having ditched his gas-guzzling Chrysler 300.

He wears $1,500 (£952) Hart Schaffner Marx suits.

He owns four identical pairs of black size 11 shoes.

He has his hair cut once a week by his Chicago barber, Zariff, who charges $21 (£13).

His favourite fictional television programmes are "Mash" and "The Wire."

He was given the code name "Renegade" by his Secret Service handlers.

He was nicknamed "Bar" by his late grandmother.

He plans to install a basketball court in the White House grounds.

His favourite artist is Pablo Picasso.

His speciality as a cook is chili.

He has said many of his friends in Indonesia were "street urchins."

He keeps on his desk a carving of a wooden hand holding an egg, a Kenyan symbol of the fragility of life.

His late father was a senior economist for the Kenyan government.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Inauguration Memory

On January 20, 1973, I was a high school freshman, and I was in Washington DC to march with my high school band in the Inaugural Parade for the second term of Richard Nixon.

Two bands from each state were chosen for this parade and mine was honored to be chosen that year. I remember being told that the school paid ten thousand dollars to transport the band of 100 musicians, plus around 50 baton twirlers, flag carriers, etc and our equipment in five Greyhound buses and for meals and overnight accommodations. That's right, the school paid for every bit of it; no parents, rich, middling, or poor had to pay out of their pockets, so that every band member could go.

As well as marching in the parade, our trip included a trip to the Smithsonian, which was, unfortunately, far too brief to really get a good look at the place.

As I watched our new President, Barack Obama, get into his new, heavily-armored limousine for the parade, I could not help but contrast it with the limousine Richard Nixon rode in for the 1973 Inauguration parade. I remember seeing Nixon ride by in a limo that was little different from other limousines. The window was down and I caught a glimpse of him, his arm out the window waving to the crowd. Even though this was ten years after the assassination of John F Kennedy, security was still not yet at the level it would later take.

Have any of you attended an Inauguration in the past? Feel free to post memories in the comment section.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inappropriate Government Meddling

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy Thesaurus Day

Today is Thesaurus Day. Which word do you wish people would replace with a synonym so that you'd hear less of it?

That's an easy one.

The overused word of the decade is: IMPACT

That is, when the word impact is used to mean "affect" or "influence", especially when people make a verb out of it. Examples: The bad economy will adversely impact our business. The music of Eric Clapton had a great impact on the guitar player's style. The price of gas is impacting the sale of SUVs.

I would reword the above sentences as: The bad economy will adversely affect our business. The music of Eric Clapton had a great influence on the guitar player's style. The price of gas is affecting the sale of SUVs.

I prefer to limit the usage of this word to its primary meanings of either "collision" or to refer what happens to some wisdom teeth. Examples: The impact of the crashing cars sent glass flying everywhere. He went to the dentist for his impacted wisdom teeth.

I dislike the overuse of "impact" as it reeks of jargon, buzz words, and trendiness. This is perhaps because it is most often ubiquitous where jargon tends to be the most rampant: among politicians and military officials, and in the business world.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Finally, A Hero

In a time when most of the news is bad, and in this story when the news could have easily been very bad, we have a hero, a man who lived up to every definition of the word.

People say what the pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, did was a miracle. Perhaps so, but one glance at his resume will show that it was less of a miracle, but more sheer competence and skill, made possible by many years of experience. He is a graduate of the Air Force Academy,with two master's degrees attained later, who flew F-4 fighter planes from 1973 to 1980. In 1980, he took his present job with US Airways. He is also an expert in airline safety, involved with several organization devoted to airline safety. There could not have been a more qualified pilot to handle the emergency landing of this plane.

It's interesting to note that at 57, Sullenberger would have soon faced mandatory retirement at 60, had the rule not be moved up to 65. It was believed that such pilots were "too old" to continue flying. However, the passengers owe their lives to his long years of experience and this story might not have had such a happy ending with a young pilot with far less experience.

I'm sure I join most people when I say that I would confidently board any plane that Captain Sullenberger would be piloting.

He is the hero of the day, but there were other heroes as well: the rescuers, both professional and amateur, who quickly and competently responded to this disaster. This was the second important role in ensuring that all 155 people on board survived, by limiting the time that the passengers were exposed to the frigid water. NYC should be rightly proud of its Public Safety employees and also the concerned citizens who pitched in to make the rescue a success.

Finally, some good news for a change

Monday, January 12, 2009

Conservative Talk Radio vs. The Fairness Doctrine

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

Yesterday, I wrote an entry ranting about Neal Boortz' elitist attitude toward people needing Section 8 housing. In the same broadcast where he made those comments, he asked a question that I wish to address in this entry.

In the segment previous to the one where he talked about Section 8, he talked about the Fairness Doctrine, a topic which strikes terror into the so-called hearts of right wing radio hosts everywhere. Boortz, along with many of his fellow ultra right wingnut pundits, believes -- or wants his readers to believe -- that liberals want the Fairness Doctrine in order to censor conservative talk radio and get them off the air.

I don't know where they get that idea from, as freedome of speech and hatred of censorship are beliefs that are central to liberalism. Rather than silencing conservative voices, liberals seek to see a broader representation of all opinions on talk radio. For us, it's not an either/or thing, it's a both/and thing.
Personally, I'd hate to see them leave the air, as listening to these wingnuts gives me a lot of rant-worthy blogging fodder, and it's a good way to monitor how the other side thinks.

I find much of what Boortz says to be reprehensible and repugnant, but I believe that to censor him and others of his ilk would be even more so. Freedom of speech is for everyone, not just for those with whom I agree. Americans still have the right to be wrong, just as long as they don't intefere with the rights of others to believe differently.

And this brings me to Boortz' question. I don't remember his exact words, but the gist was to the effect of wondering why liberal talk shows tend to end up as failures more times than not. This begs the question as to why conservative talk shows tend to have an easier time staying on the air and keeping listeners.

It's very simple. Unlike the average liberal talk show host, most conservative talk show hosts are not about civilized, reasoned debate; they specialize in low blows and ad hominem attacks. Boortz, in particular, takes great glee in being a jerk on air and rude to people with whom he disagrees, proudly referring to himself as an "equal opportunity offender".

In other words, they appeal to people's basest instincts, the lowest common denominator. They invite listeners to indulge their prejudices, justify their hate, and to blame "the Other" for their frustrations.

Conversely, most liberal pundits try to appeal to people's higher selves, to tolerate and learn to understand those who are different from ourselves, and challenge people to use complex reasoning when confronting complicated issues, and to rise above simplistic, dualistic, knee-jerk responses to troubling issues.

For many people, having to think and rise above isn't nearly as much fun as simply trashing people who are different from us and to make them the scapegoats for all the problems facing our world today.

Hence, conservative talk radio has a much easier time gaining and keeping listeners than does liberal talk radio.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

But For the Grace Of God, Go I

Last night, while monitoring the Neal Boortz radio show, he went off on a tear about one of his favorite topics: the notion that poor people who accept any sort of government assistance for basic living expenses are nothing but "parasites" who "take money away from honest, hardworking people". He is of the opinion that people are poor always simply because of stupid choices they have made in life and, conversely, rich people always deserve to be rich; that every one of them became so because of their own efforts alone, that all hard working people will be prosperous, and that workaholism is a virtue (In an earlier post of mine, I tell about how he once called people who work only 40 hours a week, "losers".)

His focus in his latest rant was Section 8 housing. He resents any of his tax dollars going to help the poor in any way, whining, "Why should I pay the rent of people who don't want to work?" Despite the news all over about our economic woes, he still clings to the fiction that everyone can have a decent job that pays well, if they'll only get off their asses and work for it. Never mind that companies are going bankrupt right and left, downsizing all over and laying people off in droves.

A man called in to the show to calmly disagree with him. He used the situation of his daughter as an example: She is a divorced Navy vet with a child, who is working two jobs while putting herself through college. Unable to find affordable non-subsidized housing, she turned to Section 8 to help get her through until she finished school and could get on her feet.

Boortz was unimpressed. He saw her as no different from the other "parasites"; crack addicts, 'welfare queens' with 8 kids, etc, who "expect hardworking people to pay their rent for them because they've screwed up and made stupid choices in life". He then told the man that he needed to be supporting her because she was his responsibility and not the government's.

Never mind that the woman was an adult and never mind that she'd already served her country and her government by serving in the Navy. As far as Boortz was concerned she'd made a "stupid choice" and thus deserved to be punished for it.

Her stupid choice? She didn't stay married; she got a divorce. Thus, her "sin" is being a single parent.

Never mind that being married is no guarantee of financial solvency or self-sufficiency. Her husband could well have been a deadbeat, which would have made him simply another mouth to feed with too little money, he could have been a drug addict, he could have been abusive, and so on.

And, of course, Boortz conveniently forgets that he's been divorced himself. I'm guessing that as long as you've got money your so-called "screwups" are your own business not to be judged by anyone else. It's only poor people who must be absolutely perfect to avoid being judged, which is impossible to Boortz, because being poor is by definition a proof of having screwed up.

Boortz brushes away the real question in such a situation -- why is affordable housing in the private sector unavailable to a hardworking person with two jobs?

He also refuses to acknowledge that this woman is the type of person for whom such assistance programs were originally created for -- hardworking people who are working to improve their situations, but who temporarily need a helping hand to make future prosperity possible. That is to help people who are working to help themselves.

Boortz sees workaholism, rugged individualism, and properity as moral virtues. While work properly balanced with rest and leisure, self-sufficiency, and prosperity are surely nothing to be ashamed of, greed and lack of compassion are.

The virtuous rich have a sense of noblesse oblige; that to whom much is given, much is expected. To help such a woman as mentioned above is an investment, not a handout, as she will surely give back to the community once she finishes school and continues to be a productive citizen.

And for those who, for whatever reason, will not become productive citizens, to ensure a basic level of living is just plain human decency and are the hallmark of a civilized society. I'm not a Christian, but I was brought up to believe in the idea "But for the grace of God, go I". That is, those of us born healthy to loving parents who could afford to give us a decent, safe upbringing and education should be grateful for it and realize that but for the luck of the draw we could have been born with bad health, to abusive parents, into generational poverty, without families at all and so on. And that given today's economy, we could easily have all we take for granted taken away from us suddenly and be in a position to need government assistance ourselves one day.

Boortz sees no value in government programs to assist the poor. But do we really want a country than simply turns all these poor people out to fend for themselves as in third world countries? Is the picture below what we really want for the United States, just so the rich can get richer?

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Later Than Late Route

For some strange reason, no matter where I've lived over the course of my life (several locations in five states), wherever I've lived has been, without fail, on what I call the Post Office's "Later Than Late" route.

That is, my mail delivery never arrives until very late in the afternoon, often not arriving until after dark in the winter. I've seen the mail truck roll by my house as late as six PM.

What are the odds on something like this happening? One would think that given the number of residences I've had during my lifetime, that I would have also had a variety of typical mail arrival times as well.

It would seem that the luck of my Murphy ancestors (as in Murphy's law) is working overtime for me to get stuck with the Later Than Late route yet again with every change of address.

I read today that because of the recession, the USPS is planning to re-organize and consolidate many routes. I'm guessing this will mean my Later Than Late route will change to a Getting Today's Mail Tomorrow route.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

There She Goes Again

Ann Coulter is playing the victim card yet again.

She was scheduled to appear on the Today show the other day to promote her latest screed of bile, which, considering her latest "poor me" performance, is ironically titled, Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America.

However, the show postponed her appearance in order to devote more coverage to the current Israel-Hamas conflict, including Matt Lauer's interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Coulter's reaction was immediate and predictable. She claimed that she'd been "banned" from NBC for life". She also told Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes that NBC had booked her only as a "charade" to keep her from going on other shows.

Wah, wah, wah.

Coulter's so-called "ban" turned out to be of only one day's duration, as she was interviewed by Matt Lauer on Wednesday's show.

Coulter's behavior was quite predictable. She is a publicity whore of the highest order and though I'm certain she fully understood the reasons why her appearanced on the Today show was postponed, she chose to exploit this opportunity for even more media exposure. By playing the victim, she was assured of being cussed and discussed on the air, over the web, and in print. She'd reasoned it had been far too long since she'd stirred up crap and jumped on this opening like stink on shit.

With Coulter, it's always Same Shit, Different Day


Monday, January 5, 2009

Arkansas Bans Unmarried Two-Parent Adoptions

On this past election day, Arkansas passed a law that went into effect on January 1st. The law, known as Act 1 reads:

Act 1, the Arkansas Unmarried Parent Adoptive Ban:


Section 1: Adoption and foster care of minors.
(a) A minor may not be adopted or placed in a foster home if the individual seeking to adopt or to serve as a foster parent is cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of a marriage which is valid under the constitution and laws of this state.
(b) The prohibition of this section applies equally to cohabiting opposite-sex and same-sex individuals.

This essentially means:

  • This proposal bans anyone who is unmarried from serving as a foster or adoptive parent— regardless of sexual orientation
  • It affects both private and public adoptions.
  • It is unclear whether single people living alone will be prohibited from adopting children.

There is so much wrong with this that I hardly know where to begin.

I think I'll start with the simple fact that there are approximately half a million children in the United States today awaiting adoption, many of whom who have no hope of being placed in foster or adoptive families of any kind before reaching adulthood. In Arkansas, some 3,700 children are in state custody, taken from their homes because of abuse and neglect. Of those, 960 kids (average age: 8.5 years) are available for adoption, said Julie Munsell of the state Department of Human Services. Of the 1,100 foster homes, one-third are headed by single people.

Opponents of Act 1 say the new law could jeopardize a wide range of non-traditional living arrangements, such as co-habitating grandparents raising grandchildren, and are not sure how far-reaching the effect will be.

Conservative proponents of this law simply brush aside the practical difficulties of such a law. John Thomas, vice president of the Arkansas Family Council, a conservative group that pushed to get the initiative on the ballot, said, I understand that there is a lack of homes, but I refuse to believe that the choice is between a horrible situation and a so-so situation."

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, disagreed, saying that "the only criteria should be who can best provide a loving, permanent home."

Indeed. The presence or lack of a state-issued marriage license is irrelevant and no predictor of a couple's capacity to provide a loving home for a child. In my years on the police force, I saw plenty of neglectful and abusive families of all types. The fact that the parents have a license from the state declaring them official, legal sex partners neither confers magical parenting abilities nor does protect children from shitty, abusive parents. Conversely, the lack of state sanction for one's intimate does not make it follow that one is incapable of providing a loving, permanent home for a child.

It is the quality of the relationship between the parents that matters when judging them to be fit adoptive parents, not the form that relationship takes.

I'd also like to ask Mr Thomas whether he really believes it is better for parentless children to remain warehoused in institutional care rather than being adopted by a loving family, simply because the parents did not seek the licensing of their relationship by the state or the church?

I'd also like to note make legal marriage mandatory for would-be adoptive parents is to impose religiously-based morality on secular laws, making it a violation of the separation of church and state.

I can only hope that this law is soon overturned.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Why Sleeping Late Is Good For You

While browsing the net the other day for blogging fodder, I found an article that gave three reasons why sleeping late may be beneficial

1. Eight hours of sleep might not be enough

Research by Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders Center found that people who slept eight hours and then claimed they were "well rested" actually performed better and were more alert if they slept another two hours. Until the invention of the light bulb, the average person slept 10 hours a night.

2. Night owls are more creative

Artists, writers, and coders typically fire on all cylinders by crashing near dawn and awakening at the crack of noon. In one study, "evening people" almost universally aced a standardized creativity test. Their early-bird brethren struggled for passing scores.

I know this is true for me, as I tend to do my best writing late at night.

3. Rising early is stressful

The stress hormone cortisol peaks in your blood around 7 am. So if you get up then, you may experience tension.

This is also rings true to me. When I was in school and when I've worked first shift jobs, I never could get used to rising early, no matter how early I'd gone to bed the night before. I'd always "drag anchor" until noon each day, feeling vaguely sick to my stomach until that time.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Vacations, Staycations, and Holidays

"Occurrences of this word [staycation] are going up with gas prices.'Vacation' does not mean 'travel,' nor does travel always involve vacation. Let's send this word on a slow boat to nowhere."
--Dan Muldoon

"Staycation" was on Lake Superior State University's recently announced list of banned words for 2009. The above comment is from a man who submitted this word for inclusion into the list.

In yesterday's blog post, I commented that the word "vacation" comes from the root word, "vacate", which means to leave one's current location, so, yeah, "vacation" does imply travel. "Vacation", loosely defined, is a time when you're vacating the places you usually inhabit.

The British -- and other Commonwealth nations, I believe -- use the word "holiday" in the same way Americans use the word "vacation". The word "holiday", however, literally means "holy day", and while people take time off for actual holidays such as Christmas and Easter, not all "holidays" are taken on holidays, i.e. "holy days". Perhaps this distinction is the reason why Americans started using the word "vacation" in place of "holiday". Americans might say they are "going on vacation during the holidays", but they'd never say they're "going on holiday during the summer".

Though the use of the word "vacation" has taken on broader meanings over the years, I grew up during a time when the phrase, "going on vacation" existed alongside "summer vacation". The first phrase had the emphasis on the word "going", which meant traveling somewhere far enough away where you'd not be sleeping at home during the time of vacation. "Summer vacation", on the other hand, just meant time off and away from school; it did not necessarily imply traveling away from home as well, though such trips were quite common, as many parents scheduled time off from work to coincide with their childrens' time off from school in order to take family vacations involving travel. But now with higher gas prices combined with shorter summer school breaks, employers offering fewer days of paid vacation, and stagnating wages, family vacations away from home are becoming less common.

Hence, the neologism, "staycation", where individuals, couples, and families visit things within a day's drive of their homes in order to save on gas and lodgings or simply veg out at home during their time off from work and school. I agree that the term has great potential for being annoying, but "staycation" is a more concise way of saying, "we'renotgoingtogoawayonourtimeofffromwork

So, I'd not have included "staycation" on the 2009 list, though it does admittedly have great annoyance potential if overused.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Banned Words For 2009

Michigan's Lake Superior State University has released its annual "List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness."


As in "environmentally friendly". This includes "Green" and all of its variations, such as 'going green,' 'building green,' 'greening,' 'green technology,' 'green solutions' and more, drew the most attention from those who sent in nominations this year.

"This spawned 'green solutions,' 'green technology,' and the horrible use of the word as a verb, as in, 'We really need to think about greening our office.'" Mike McDermott of Philadelphia said.


"It is now considered fashionable for everyone, tree hugger or lumberjack alike, to pay money to questionable companies to 'offset' their own 'carbon footprint.' What a scam! Get rid of it immediately!" Ginger Hunt, London, England said.

Mike of Chicago says that when he hears the phrase 'carbon footprint,' "I envision microscopic impressions on the surface of the earth where an atom of carbon forgot to wear its shoes."

Christy Loop of Woodbridge, Va., says that 'leaving a carbon footprint' has become the new 'politically incorrect.' "How can we not, in one way or another, affect our natural environment?"


"The constant repetition of this word for months before the US election diluted whatever meaning it previously had. Even the comic offshoot 'mavericky' was terribly overused.

"You know it's time to banish this word when even the Maverick family, who descended from the rancher who inspired the term, says it's being mis-used." Scott Urbanowski, Kentwood, Mich.

When I heard this term all through the election, my first thought was of the junky car model made by Ford during the 70s.


"Skateboard English is not an appropriate way to refer to the spouse of a high-ranking public official." Paul Ruschmann, Canton, Mich. said.

Yeah, First Redneck would have been more appropriate in this instance.


"Use of emergency funds to remove toxic assets from banks' balance sheets is not a bailout. When your cousin calls you from jail in the middle of the night, he wants a bailout." Ben Green, State College, PA said.

I tend to visualize someone in a leaky rowboat with a bucket trying to get rid of the water, myself when I hear this one


"The recent and continuing financial failings are not limited to 'Wall Street,' nor should one paint business, consumers, and small investors as ' Main Street .' Topeka (where I work), and Lawrence (where I live), Kansas, have no named ' Main Street .' How tiresome." Kent McAnally, Topeka, KS. said.

"I am so tired of hearing about everything affecting ' Main Street .' I know that with the 'Wall Street' collapse, the comparison is convenient, but really, let's find another way to talk about everyman or the middle class, or even, heaven forbid, 'Joe the Plumber.'" Stacey, Knoxville, Tenn.

It didn't take long for this one to become trite.

Internet and texting blues


"Especially on the Internet, many people seem to think they can make any boring name sound more attractive just by adding the word 'monkey' to it. Do a search to find the latest. It is no longer funny." Rogier Landman, Somerville, Mass.

I've not run across this one until reading this list.


Supposed to resemble a heart, or stand for the word 'love.' Used when sending those important text messages to loved ones. "Just say the word instead of making me turn my head sideways and wondering what 'less than three' means." Andrea Estrada, Chicago.

I hate this one with a passion. I've seen it on people's blogs and it always perplexed me. I'd like "WHAT is less than three?" The heart thing never occurred to me.

Overuse in news and entertainment


Overused, especially among entertainers and in entertainment news." "Everyone and everything cannot be 'iconic.' Can't we switch to 'legendary' or 'famous for'? In our entertainment-driven culture, it seems everyone in show business is 'iconic' for some reason or another. "John Flood, Bray, Wicklow, Ireland said.

"It's becoming the new 'awesome' - overused to the point where everything from a fast-food restaurant chain to celebrities is 'iconic.'" Jodi Gill, New Berlin, WI said.


"It's game OVER for this cliché, which gets overused in the news media, political arenas and in business." Cynthia, Mt. Pleasant, MI said.

Yeah, we need a channel changer for game changer.


"Occurrences of this word are going up with gas prices.'Vacation' does not mean 'travel,' nor does travel always involve vacation. Let's send this word on a slow boat to nowhere." Dan Muldoon, Omaha, NE said.

Well, to be technical, the word "vacation" comes from the root word, "vacate", which means to leave one's current location, so, yeah, "vacation" does imply travel. And I've never come across the word "staycation" except in language rant articles.


"Every time the news can't find something intelligent to report, they start on a 'desperate search' for someone, somewhere." Rick A. Hyatt, Saratoga, WY said.


"I wish that the phrase was used not so much," says Tom Benson of Milwaukee, who notes that it is used widely in news media, especially in sports, i.e. 'The Gophers have a shot at the playoffs; the Chipmunks, not so much.'

"A favorite of snarky critics and bloggers." Jeff Baenen of Minneapolis said.


"It hasn't won an Academy Award yet. It has only been NOMINATED!" John Bohenek, Abilene, Tex.

Yeah, There's no "winning" involved if someone is but one of a group of nominees for an award. The winner is the winner, not the nominees.


Nominated by Kathleen Brosemer of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., for "general overuse and meaninglessness. When is it not 'that time of year again?' From Valentine's sales to year-end charity letters, invitations to summer picnics and Christmas parties, it's 'that time' of year again. Just get to the point of the solicitation, invitation, and newsletter and cut out six useless and annoying words."

I have two nominations to this year's list:


Used to indicate a limited worldview or perception. As in, "She must be living in a bubble", to mean "She's living in her own little world."

I recently heard a talk radio host opine that since the election that Barack Obama has been "trapped in a media bubble".

Urgh. Someone needs to pop this particular use of bubble.


This one is on my list of "weasel words; that is, a pretentious word in which a simpler, more direct synonym exists.

I see "proffer" in novels quite often, though I've never in my entire life heard someone used it in conversation. I'm not even sure how to pronounce it. My mind reads "pro offer", as opposed to "amateur offer", but I'm suspecting it's merely said like its more common synonym "offer" with the "pr" sound in front of it.

So, why not simply say "offer" instead? It's a perfectly good word, along with the verb "hand", another synonym that "proffer" often is used for.


To see their lists from previous years: